Oliver Kazunga in Harare
TOURISM and Hospitality Minister Engineer Walter Mzembi yesterday challenged newly appointed Zimbabwean ambassadors to Europe and the United States to speak positively about the country to promote growth and development of the tourism sector.
In a briefing to bid farewell to the ambassadors at the on-going Sanganai/Hlanganani World Travel Expo in Harare, the minister said: “Tourism is one of the key pillars and as you represent the country from abroad, we want to see how you’ll promote tourism not only in tourist arrivals but investment into the sector.
“As you represent the country abroad, the greatest complication that we must address is the perception about Brand Zimbabwe. We’ve got to where we are because of economic sanctions. What we need to do as we represent the country is to package our national conversation in a very positive manner.”
Eng Mzembi said the country’s tourism sector was poised for growth despite the economic sanctions slapped on Zimbabwe by the West and its allies.
He cited Cuba as an example of a country whose tourism industry thrived despite that country having been subjected to years of punitive measures.
“Cuba is an example of a country whose tourism has done so well under severe economic sanctions, a period of severe hardships that has never been experienced by mankind. Cuban tourism attracts three million net international arrivals,” said the minister.
“Compared to us, we do 2,1 million including domestic, regional and international arrivals. With three million international arrivals, Cuba is generating $2,6 billion annually while our tourism receipts are just under $1 billion.”
Eng Mzembi said his ministry envisages that Zimbabwe’s tourism sector would be contributing $5 billion to the Gross Domestic Product by 2020 with at least five million arrivals.
He added that it was critical for the country and the Sadc region at large to adopt policies that lure tourists.
“We’re working towards introducing a tourism uni-visa for countries in the Sadc but this process is being stalled by some countries in the region that have cited security concerns among other issues. At the end of this month, I can reveal that Zimbabwe and Zambia will be introducing a pilot uni-visa system before the system is fully adopted by the region,” said Eng Mzembi.