HARARE – Zimbabwe has scaled up efforts to extinguish growing global scepticism against its investment and political landscape, with Tourism Minister, Priscah Mupfumira the latest to reassure investors that Foreign Direct Investment remains safe.

She says investors keen to enter the Zimbabwean tourism market now stand to benefit from several incentives lined up to expand and rebuild hotels and other leisure infrastructure in some of Africa’s “best kept secrets”.

Writing in an African Development Bank tourism report, The Tourism Monitor Mupfumira said the southern African country required the world’s immediate response now than ever before.

Mupfumira has made big inroads in attracting tourists into Zimbabwe in the past year, with an estimated three million arrivals projected for 2018, from 2,5 million in 2017.

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She says a diversified tourism industry riding on world class facilities can propel the country forward, with the capacity to host five million tourists by 2020.

Under an ambitious plan set by her predecessor, Walter Mzembi, Zimbabwe targets to generate US$5 billion from the leisure industry by 2020, making it the biggest contributor to gross domestic product.

“To support the sustenance of the tourism industry, the Zimbabwe government commits itself to offering tourism investment incentives such as duty exemptions and rebates on capital goods for tourism development zones, as well as the provision of the tourism fund,” she said.

“With these developments, we appeal to the international market to consider Zimbabwe as your next destination for investment and tourism business. We need you more than ever and we hope that you will be part of the transition, as we strive to reposition Zimbabwe to the glory of yesteryears. Together, we can make Zimbabwe the favourable destination to visit, a destination of choice, and, above all, a favourable economic playing field for all,” said Mupfumira.

Her appeal for fresh investment into the industry came before demonstrations against deepening hardships rocked major cities this January.

But in a show of force that is now the subject of international debate and condemnation, government unleashed the military to confront angry demonstrators as they looted shops, destroyed infrastructure and grounded industry and commerce.

The result was a bloody week of punctuated by fractured limps and multiple arrests that have turned Zimbabwe back into global spotlight, with its image now difficult to defend.

With the military action still dividing a trouble nation, Mupfumira was in Madrid, Spain last week hoping to convince the world that Zimbabwe was still hospitable.

In Spain for the International Tourism and Trade Fair (FITUR), Mupfumira sort to leverage on the country’s world class attractions to regain lost confidence.

“We would like to participate like other countries showcasing that Zimbabwe remains a safe must visit tourism destination as already certified by various global surveys,” she Mupfumira said.

In her delegation, officials remained optimistic of robust growth in 2019, even as the crackdown against demonstrators continued to dominate the news.

“We are certain that 2019 will yield much more not only in the Spanish market but globally, given the various recent endorsements by media powerhouses such as Lonely PlanetNational Geographic and The Telegraph,” said Givemore Chidzidzi, acting chief executive officer at the Zimbabwe Tourism Authority.

He said Zimbabwe would take advantage of the conference to interface with Spanish tour operators.

“The Spanish market is on an upward growth trend,” noted Chidzidzi.

“Meetings are in progress with various tourism buyers and investors from African, Spanish and other European countries indicating their interest in Zimbabwe while some have lingering nostalgia of their previous unforgettable experiences,” he noted.

“It certainly leaves a remarkable impression of the eagerness that many have in doing business with Zimbabwe once again. Zimbabwe will create awareness for destination Zimbabwe, identify and attract new partners and distributors from the Spanish speaking market.  Resuscitation and forging new partnerships with tour operators whilst nurturing the current business relationships with the view of intensifying the promotion and packaging of the destination is also on the cards,” ZTA said.

Victoria Falls is one of Zimbabwe’s biggest attractions. In 2017, the Spanish market reported a 41 percent rise in arrivals to 12 583 tourists, according to ZTA statistics.

The number had ended at 8 950 in 2016.