HARARE – Zimbabwe can use its globally acclaimed tourist attractions to fight a devastating international isolation that is entering its 20th straight year, according to Speaker of the House of Assembly, Jacob Mudenda.
Under the sanctions regime slapped on the country by western powers at the turn of the century, Zimbabwe has lost a number of privileges that comes with being a member of the international community, such as access to balance of payment support lifelines and loans from key financial institutions like the International Monetary Fund and the World Bank.
But Mudenda says there are significant opportunities that lies untapped in the tourism industries, where Harare can leverage on attractions like Victoria Falls, Great Zimbabwe and Lake Kariba to drive tourists and generate foreign currency.
Foreign currency shortages have been at the heart of an economic crisis that intensified last early this year, when the country ended a decade long multicurrency regime and returned the Zimbabwe dollar.
“Cuba has been under an embargo by the Americans and they have resorted to tourism, which is now one of the biggest contributors to gross domestic product inspite of the embargo,” he told a meeting of Zimbabwe’s chief executive officers organised by the CEO Africa Roundtable recently.
“They have looked inward (for a solution). If Cuba can do it under sanctions, we can also do it. We have tourist attractions – the Victoria falls and National Parks,” he said, imploring CEO to market Zimbabwe while on their business trips abroad.
“Don’t go out for your business alone,” he said.
“Be Zimbabwe’s tourism ambassadors,” said Mudenda.
Tourism industry revenues reached US$1 billion in 2018, when arrivals rose to 2,5 million – the highest ever performance by a sector that has been affected by the international isolation imposed due to Harare’s poor human rights record and several other ills.
The Ministry of finance projects arrivals to increase to 2,7 million this year, with revenues also expected to rise.
“Tourism is recognised as one of the pillars anchoring the country’s economic growth,” said Mthuli Ncube, the Minister of Finance, when he presented the 2020 National Budget last month.
“The sector has continued on a positive trajectory path as evidenced by tourist arrivals that grew from 1,8 million in 2013, to 2,5 million in 2018. It is expected that tourist arrivals will marginally increase to 2,7 million in 2019, irrespective of the prevailing macroeconomic environment,” said Ncube.