HARARE – A group of 340 Chinese tourists were due to arrive in Harare Thursday, in a huge confidence boost on the safety of travellers into Zimbabwe, but only a day after President Donald Trump’s administration issued stern warnings against travelling to the southern African country, citing “insecurity”.
Washington’s powerful message delivered late Wednesday will have dire implications on the growth of arrivals from the US market into Zimbabwe, which generates rich picking in hunting fees from American clients annually.
But it took the intervention of the Chinese to, at least, defuse the damage, as Harare said the arrival of the “biggest ever” group of tourists was important in achieving ambitions growth targets set by Tourism Minister, Priscah Mupfumira.
The group has already toured Tanzania and Djibouti under a programme called “Tour Africa – The New Horizon”, and chose Harare as their last leg of the Africa excursion.
On Thursday, it was clear that the Tour Africa project had emerged as the cornerstones of Zimbabwe’s planning, with Mupfumira hoping that their presence would send positive signals across Asia about the peace that traverses the country’s wild, unspoilt wildlife estates.
Harare projects that as a result of the programme, Zimbabwe will increase arrivals from China by an additional 10 000 to about 30 000 before 2025.
“Today we are here to witness yet another milestone in our relationship that will see a historical group of over 343 Chinese business and leisure tourists arriving in our beloved country,” Mupfumira said Wednesday.
“With the support from Touchroad and government of the People’s Republic of China, we have no doubt that our grand goal of increasing tourism arrivals from China will be achieved much earlier than 2025. We are happy to note that our cooperation with Touchroad International Holdings Group has contributed to the growth of our Tourism as arrivals in Zimbabwe have shown great increase, from a modest 14 407 arrivals in 2017 to 19 428 in 2018,” she said.
The initiative started last year, when Zimbabwe and Chinese firm, Touchroad International Holdings Group entered into a Memorandum of Agreement to facilitate investment and tourism.
She spoke a few hours after reports of another devastating travel warning from the United States trickled into Harare.
President Donald Trump’s administration warned of possible civil unrest Zimbabwe, where tensions have been building up over deepening hardships.
In the notice titled ‘Zimbabwe Travel Advisory, Level 2: Exercise Increased Caution’, the US warned Americans to be vigilant.
“Violent crime, such as assault, carjacking, and home invasion, is common. Smashing the windows of cars with the intent to steal, which can harm the driver or passengers, is also common. Local police lack the resources to respond effectively to serious criminal incidents. Read the safety and security section on the country information page,” the advisory noted.
It urged those deciding to travel to Zimbabwe to “stay alert and avoid openly displaying cash, stay away from political rallies, demonstrations and crowds.
Americans were also urged to carry a copy of their passport and visa, while ensuring the originals are kept safe at their accommodation facilities, and also to keep travel documents up to date and easily accessible.
The warning comes as tensions mount in the face of unending fuel shortages, crippling power cuts, the rising cost of living, runaway inflation and continued price hikes of basic commodities and increasing transport costs.
Zimbabwe experience a wave of violent protests in mid-January after government increased the prices of petrol and diesel, from $1,33 to $3,34 in local currency for petrol and $1,20 to $3,20 for diesel.
What followed later on was a deadly and brutal crackdown on suspected protesters by State security agents.
Human rights organisations said 26 people were left dead in the aftermath, while nearly 100 were left nursing gunshot wounds.
Several opposition political activists, legislators and non-governmental organisation leaders were forced to flee their homes.
In Zimbabwe the Chinese will visit several attractions before attending a business conference.
“We believe that they will get a full appreciation of the wonders of destination Zimbabwe, that is our wonderful people and culture, our rich history and heritage, pristine wildlife and nature, the mythical Kariba and the mighty Zambezi, not forgetting the mountainous range of the eastern Highlands in addition to Great Zimbabwe and the Victoria Falls. Furthermore, there is going to be a Zim- China business forum that we definitely believe will ignite two-way business interest. Within the same vein of intensifying our presence within our Chinese market, Zimbabwe will soon be opening a new Zimbabwe Tourist Office in Shanghai, China which will give us an active representation in this important market for our mutual benefit,” said Mupfumira.