... Rigid financial infrastructure frustrates Chinese tourists
By Farai Mabeza
ZIMBABWE continues to struggle to attract overseas tourists from both western countries and China, the Zimbabwe Tourism Authority chief executive officer, Karikoga Kaseke, has said.
Episodes of economic and political instability as well as allegations of human rights violations have seen traditional western tourists shunning the country, while President Robert Mugabe’s “Look East Policy” has failed to translate into increased arrivals from the Asian continent.
Kaseke told The Financial Gazette that the Zimbabwean tourism industry should put emphasis on the overseas market because of its potential to generate more revenue for the country.
“Prior to 1999, the overseas market was constituting 35 percent of our total arrivals, but it went down to 11 percent (and) now it’s at 14 percent.
“I think we must aim to get it (overseas market) to at least 40 percent and Africa should contribute 60 percent,
simply because the overseas market spends far more than our African market.
“On average, a tourist from an overseas market spends between eight and 10 percent more than an average tourist from Africa,” Kaseke said.
Kaseke said one of the reasons Zimbabwe would continue to struggle with the Chinese market was that the most used bank card in China, the Union Pay, was not accepted in the local financial system.
“How then do we say that China is our biggest source market? How do we say we are looking east when we don’t even accept the main credit card from the Chinese market? We must definitely embrace the Union Pay if we are to reap fruits from the Chinese market,” he said.
The African market itself, though it still constitutes the biggest segment, has seen a decline in terms of visitors from the most lucrative market, South Africa which is another huge concern for the industry.
In 2006, Zimbabwe received 1,6 million tourists from South Africa but this has declined to 700 000 in 2016.
In the first quarter of 2017, a total of 479 718 tourists arrived in the country, representing a six percent increase compared to the same period last year, but falling far short of the visitor arrivals of neighbouring South Africa.
Out of these visitors, 84 percent were from the African market.
During the same period, arrivals from Europe totaled 27 433, representing a 29 percent increase from the same period in 2016, with increases in most major markets including Britain (132 percent), France (76 percent) and Germany (eight percent).
The increase in European arrivals came after it closed with an 18 percent decline in 2016. The European market share stood at seven percent and is the greatest overseas market for the country.
Despite these figures, the ZTA still emphasises that Zimbabwe still has a long way to go in terms of attracting arrivals from this market.
To put this in context, South Africa recorded 102 155 arrivals from the UK alone in the first two months of 2017.
The Americas, which contributed 23 297 arrivals in Zimbabwe in the first half, saw 78 548 arrivals from the same region in South Africa in just the first two months of the year alone.
Arrivals from the Asian market in Zimbabwe declined by four percent from 14 004 to 13 385 in 2017, due to the poor performance by China, which represented 43 percent of that market.