In an unexpected twist of fate, Zimbabwe’s tourism sector is experiencing a resurgence, flourishing against the backdrop of the nation’s struggling economy.
Despite a challenging financial climate, the allure of Zimbabwe’s natural wonders has drawn a staggering one million visitors in 2022, signaling a robust recovery from the pandemic’s grip.
Tourism Triumphs in Tough Times
The first half of this year alone witnessed nearly 600,000 tourists, both local and international, flocking to Zimbabwe’s iconic destinations, as reported by official figures. This surge in travel interest is a testament to the enduring appeal of the country’s diverse attractions and the resilience of its people.
At the heart of this revival is the story of individuals like Panashe Gotora, a 23-year-old Harare local. His journey to the majestic Victoria Falls, a thousand kilometers from his home, is a narrative of determination and savvy budgeting. Panashe represents a growing trend of Zimbabweans who are discovering the joys of exploring their homeland, spurred by initiatives that make local attractions accessible and affordable.
Victoria Falls Mayor, Prince Thuso Moyo, has been instrumental in these efforts, advocating for pricing strategies that welcome local visitors. “We are promoting local tourism,” Moyo stated, emphasizing the importance of making such experiences feasible for Zimbabweans.
The Zimbabwe Tourism Authority’s data paints a picture of hope, with a million tourists in 2022 and a significant portion of visits in the current year attributed to local travelers. This shift towards domestic tourism is a strategic response to the pandemic, with the National Tourism Recovery and Growth Strategy at its core, aiming to educate locals on the treasures within their borders.
Godfrey Koti, the ZTA spokesperson, credits the coronavirus with sparking a renewed interest in local tourism. “We teach locals about things of interest in the country, drawing many people to value local tourism,” Koti explained.
The strategy seems to be working, as evidenced by the 12.8 million local trips recorded last year. The trend continues, with 4.4 million local visits in just the first half of this year. Hoteliers like Matifadza Nyazema of Mbano Hotel in Victoria Falls note that the influx includes Zimbabweans living abroad, who either return for visits or sponsor trips for family members.
Social media platforms are abuzz with stories of local tourists, reinforcing the observations of industry leaders like Wengayi Nhau, president of the Tourism Business Council of Zimbabwe. Nhau notes that the pandemic’s travel restrictions have highlighted the importance of travel and the desire to experience the beauty of one’s country.
Themba Ncube, deputy general manager at Victoria Falls’ Palm River Hotel, confirms this trend. “Our Facebook page is a testament to the increasing number of local tourists,” he says, illustrating the growing preference for family vacations and luxury stays within the country’s scenic locales.
In the face of economic adversity, Zimbabwe’s tourism sector stands as a beacon of hope, demonstrating the unyielding spirit of its people and the enduring charm of its landscapes. (AA)