Tourists are returning in numbers to Zimbabwe, a year on from Robert Mugabe’s resignation. After many years of civil war and corruption, the country is now drawing on its stunning natural beauty and heritage, triggering a tourism boom that should also spark significant growth in its air industry.
While Zimbabwe is still suffering the numerous effects of hyperinflation, such as rising prices, a scarcity of staples, and peer-to-peer transactions in USD only, the country’s tourism industry has started to pick up, as reported by travel industry website Skift.
Having enjoyed a golden age in the 20 years that followed the declaration of its independence in 1980, Zimbabwe has been hit hard by war and corruption at the highest levels of its political system. Once the most prosperous country in Africa, Zimbabwe and its thriving industries – tourism included – have fallen upon very hard times.
Hugely in debt, Zimbabwe ranks 159 out of 190 countries in the World Bank’s Doing Business 2018 index. Even after Mugabe’s departure from office in November 2017, the country was not everyone’s idea of the ideal tourist destination, though that is starting to change. With its unspoiled nature and heritage, it is once again proving popular with visitors, who are making their return.
Zimbabwe can take pride from the fact that it operates one of the most effective wildlife preservation systems on the continent. Malilangwe Reserve, created thanks to a partnership between the financier Paul Tudor Jones and conservation company Singita, is home to black and white rhinos, red hartebeest and wild dogs.
The animals are protected by a team of 90 wildlife scouts, who patrol the reserve every day, helping to gather valuable data for ongoing wildlife research. Tourists can also offer direct support to the programme by making donations.
Air industry on the up
Elsewhere, Victoria Falls Airport recently underwent USD150m of investment to meet growing demand among tourists, while the Zimbabwe Civil Aviation Authority said passenger volume rose fully 25% between January and August 2018. As Deborah Calmeyer, founder of safari company Roar Africa, explained, other sites are also seeing an increase in tourist numbers, among them Mana Pools and Bumi Hills Safari Lodge.
Industry experts and the business community are agreed on the steps the Zimbabwean tourist industry needs to take if it is to maximise its full potential: improved access to sites and development of the country’s air industry, in addition to the modernising of its immigration laws.
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