Senior Business Reporter
ZIMBABWE has relaxed visa requirements for Chinese nationals allowing them to get visas on arrival in a bid to grow tourist arrivals from that country, according to the Zimbabwe Tourism Authority (ZTA).
Before the relaxation, China was in category C, which means that its nationals had to first obtain visas in their country before travelling to Zimbabwe.
Only nationals from countries in category A do not require visas to travel to Zimbabwe. The tourism authority said the relaxation of the visa regime for Chinese nationals follows a push by the Tourism and Hospitality Industry Ministry to grow arrivals from Asia.
“Chinese will now get visas upon arrival,” said ZTA on its website, quoting Minister Walter Mzembi.
China has been Zimbabwe’s “all weather friend” since the pre-independence era. The country has also benefited a lot from the “Look East” policy since its adoption a decade ago.
Minister Mzembi could not be reached on his mobile phone to give more details yesterday.
However, he is on record as saying the government would continue pushing for the relaxation of visas requirements to boost international arrivals.
Arrivals from China have of late been on the rise registering a growth of 46 percent in the first six months to June 30 this year.
Arrivals from China/Hong Kong were 3,973 from 2,730.
In the 2015 first half tourism statistics overview report, ZTA said 81 percent of Chinese arrivals entered through Harare International Airport, followed by Victoria Falls Border (six percent), Victoria Falls Airport (five percent) and Kazungula (three percent).
During the period under review, no single Chinese entered through Beitbridge Border Post.
The bulk of Chinese coming through the Harare International Airport came for business purposes.
ZTA has said the cumbersome visa procedures were the major inhibiting factor for the growth of the tourism sector in Zimbabwe.
In the first half of 2015, the country recorded a seven percent increase in international tourist arrivals to 930,276 compared to 867,163 during the same period last year. ZTA has attributed the increase to the rise in arrivals from mainland Africa, adding that all other major markets experienced declines except Oceania, which rose by 26 percent.
Arrivals from mainland Africa registered 811,717 foreign tourist arrivals, up from 745,566 in 2014 representing a nine percent increase.
The tourism body has reported that to a large extent, the increase in arrivals from South Africa (38 percent) boosted the rise in arrivals from mainland Africa due the big market share it commands.
The tourism sector has been one of Zimbabwe’s major economic mainstays with the country presently earning just under $1 billion from the sector.