African Travel Concept


Zimbabwe: Preferred Destination Status Welcomed

Government and the tourism sector have hailed the ranking of Zimbabwe as the 14th must-visit global tourist destination for this year by the New York Times.

Interestingly, the county has been under media onslaught from Western governments and their media since the turn of the millennium when Zimbabwe embarked on the land redistribution exercise.

The New York Times, under the heading "Once-avoided, now must-visit" had this to say of Zimbabwe;

"This country's beauty and bounty have been overshadowed by political unrest and economic collapse over the last few decades, but today, the government is finally stable, the overinflated Zimbabwean dollar is gone, and the prices are low.

"An international terminal at Victoria Falls Airport set to open in July will make it far easier to get to, and new trips from outfitters like Red Savannah and Cox and Kings give travellers a way to explore the many riches: There's the spectacular Victoria Falls, the Zambezi, Unesco World Heritage sites like the granite landform Matobo Hills and the colonial charm of cities like Harare.

"The biggest draw, however, might be the abundance of game, including hippos and lions, on full view on water safaris, like those offered by the new luxury cruiser Matusadona, or the old-fashioned way, by land, at upscale lodges like Bomani Tented Lodge in Hwange National Park."

Government and the tourism sector believe the latest ranking of Zimbabwe as number 14 out of 52 places to go for 2015 by the New York Times was a major boost for the country.

"This is yet another exercise in the endorsement of Brand Zimbabwe," said Tourism and Hospitality Industry Minister Walter Mzembi.

"At the inter-governmental agency level, the UNWTO 20th Session General Assembly in August 2013 was the highest sectoral endorsement of Brand Zimbabwe, which has since been followed by other recollections symbolised by the leadership of President Mugabe at the Sadc and to be followed by assumption of office of the African Union as chairperson.

"The people pillar in nation branding as exemplified by His Excellency is therefore doing well, so are other indices like our literacy level, which is at 94 percent, a vibrant diaspora and the general wellness of our human capital."

Minister Mzembi said the significance of the New York Times rating was that it had come from a section of the media that was known for being at the forefront of denigrating Zimbabwe.

"So, this New Year endorsement is not self-praise from us, but rather, from our yesteryear detractors and in perception management that is very significant," he said.

"In their own words, Zimbabwe is a global must visit and this must be celebrated. I hope our local media who are running at tangent with vitriolic headlines on Brand Zimbabwe shall take a cue from this and begin to be merchants of love, harmony and productivity."

Zimbabwe Council for Tourism vice president Mr Tichaona Hwingwiri said the endorsement would go a long way in attracting tourists to Zimbabwe.

"This is coming in the backdrop of our hosting of the UNWTO General Assembly and Sadc Summit, which has started to open doors to the entire world," he said.

"This endorsement can only result in incremental arrivals because tourism is about perception. We are saying to industry, lets be ready. But I want to also advise the local media that it is us who must portray positive things about the destination."

Employers Association for Tourism and Safari operators president Mr Clement Mukwasi said the endorsement was encouraging for the country in general and the tourism sector in particular.

"For too long Zimbabwe has been on the receiving end in as far as Western media are concerned," he said.

"We think the ranking was long overdue considering that Victoria Falls is one of the few remaining natural world heritage sites.

"Zimbabwe is not only blessed with natural heritage, but multi-cultural human population that in itself is an attraction to tourists."

The other three African countries ranked in the list were South Africa at number seven, Tanzania at 17 and Morocco at 31.


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