Zimbabwe Tourism Authority (ZTA) is battling to forestall a potentially crippling crisis to the $1 billion industry following a bloody finale to a hard fought poll last week.
Arrivals returned to the 2,4 million level last year, which was last achieved in 1999 riding on a peaceful environment in the months up to last week’s polls.
The ZTA was under pressure to deliver at least three million arrivals targeted by government this year, before driving the numbers up to five million by 2020.
This rise in arrivals will be vital for generating foreign currency inflows that Zimbabwe’s broke government desperately requires to return to stability in the post poll period.
The country had gone through six years of a frustrating liquidity crisis that have triggered a sea of shortages of some vital goods like drugs and sporadic fuel stock outs.
In a statement released in the aftermath of a brutal military crackdown on opposition party demonstrators, ZTA said Zimbabwe remained one of the safest destinations for domestic and foreign tourists.
It assured tourism markets that the destructions that left seven dead and many injured had been confined to Harare.
Tourism destination remained safe with leisure travellers free to enjoy Zimbabwe’s wildlife, sunshine and ancient attractions, said ZTA.
“Notwithstanding the post-election violence witnessed on 1 August 2018 in the capital city, Harare, Zimbabwe remains a safe destination for any travel,” Karikoga Kaseke, the ZTA chief executive said.
“The incidents of protests that occurred in parts of the Central Business District and the south eastern areas of the capital city were quickly brought under control through the timely intervention of the police with the assistance of the army.
“Tourism thrives in a peaceful environment and as such the Zimbabwe Tourism Authority does not condone any form of violence at all and joins the rest of the nation and international community to condemn the perpetrators of violence in the strongest terms.
“We would like to state that the disturbances were restricted to the central business district of Harare and the rest of the country remained peaceful and all our tourist resort sites undisturbed by the state of affairs in the capital city,” he said.
Kaseke, a veteran in the tourism industry where politics always destroy the foundations that ZTA tries to build to ignite higher inflows, has the benefit of hindsight.
He has previously seen massive cancellations each time bloody confrontations hit the country in the past decade.
The industry had significantly scaled back, until last year, when tourists started warming up to government’s overtures.
In the week ending July 15, 2008, Zimbabwe’s tourism industry lost close to US$10 million in potential earnings after multiple cancellations instigated by the bloodbath that greeted the post-election period that June.
At least 33 000 foreign tourists cancelled bookings during the period following heightened travel warnings, official statistics said at the time.
He told The Financial Gazette in July 2008; “There are certain things we, as Zimbabweans should do to correct the situation. The situation will not correct itself. We must put in place strategies to regain our market not by sitting and crying. We lose and lose out forever. The tourists have an option; they have no obligation to visit Zimbabwe. They can go to Kenya, Tanzania to watch the elephants”.
What made last week’s military force was the loss of life by civilians who had nothing to do with the ruinous demonstrations condemned by organisations across the world including by ZTA.
“The authority sincerely regrets the loss of lives during the disturbances and extends its deep condolences to the bereaved families,” said Kaseke.
“We would like to urge all travellers to Zimbabwe and those currently in the country to conduct their business deals as the situation is back to normal. Leisure travellers are therefore happily advised to stay calm and enjoy their experience in this, our Zimbabwe — A World of Wonders,” he noted.