Oliver Kazunga, Senior Business Reporter
THE country recorded a seven percent increase in international tourist arrivals to 930,276 in the first half of 2015, according to the Zimbabwe Tourism Authority (ZTA).
The increase was mostly driven by a rise in mainland Africa with all other major markets experiencing a decline except the Oceania, which rose by 26 percent.
During the comparable period last year, international tourist arrivals stood at 867,163.
Arrivals from mainland Africa registered 811,717, up from 745,566 in 2014 representing a nine percent increase.
South Africa dominated African arrivals with 38 percent of the share, said ZTA.
Most arrivals from Africa were through Beitbridge Border Post (71 percent) and Harare international Airport (12 percent).
At Beitbridge Border Post ZTA said most travellers were South Africans who were visiting friends and relatives and those on leisure.
The tourism authority said during the period under review, arrivals from Europe fell marginally by one percent with a decline in major markets including France, Germany, Italy, Nordic countries and Spain pulling down the overall performance of the region.
“The arrivals fell from 60,530 in 2014 to 60,021 in 2015. The European market share stood at six percent down one percentage point from seven percent in 2014. Europe remains the greatest overseas market for the country,” said ZTA.
Arrivals from the Asian market dropped eight percent to 14,999 from 16,370 in 2014 with Japan and South Korea (the major markets) also declining.
However, China’s performance was encouraging, rising by 46 percent during the period under review.
“Research has shown that 81 percent of the Chinese arrivals entered through Harare International Airport, followed by Victoria Falls border with six percent, Victoria Falls airport with five percent and Kazungula with three percent.
No single Chinese entered through Beitbridge.
“Further investigations also revealed that the bulk of the Chinese coming through the Harare International Airport are for business purposes. It is important to note that cumbersome visa procedures have been the major inhibiting factor for the growth of this market in Zimbabwe,” said ZTA.
The tourism body said steps were already underway to improve the visa regime to attract more tourists.
It noted that Americas continue to be the second greatest overseas visitors for Zimbabwe since last year.
The American region has maintained an overall market share of three percent. Arrivals from the America, like most other regions, fell by 11 percent from 30,373 in 2014 to 27,117.
During the period under review, the Oceania registered a 26 percent increase from 11,575 arrivals in 2014 to 14,567.
Its market share stood at two percent up from one percent in the first half 2014.
The Middle East continues trail behind in its contribution to total arrivals into the country contributing less than one percent of the market share.
The region recorded a 33 percent fall in the first half of the year.
On accommodation statistics, ZTA said the average hotel room occupancy level shed one percentage point from 42 percent to 41 percent in the first half.
“The occupancies were largely pulled down by declines in Masvingo, Nyanga and Mutare. Masvingo is largely dependent on domestic tourism and on average these constitute 92 percent of clients in accommodation facilities.
“Conferencing business greatly influences utilisation of facilities. Unfortunately, the current economic hardships have had an adverse impact on conferencing. On the contrary, Kariba and Hwange experienced positive growth in occupancies.