Financial Gazette 20th August, 2004
The tourism industry, which took a heavy battering at the height of the government's chaotic land reform in 2000, will this year contribute two percent of gross domestic product (GDP).
Industry players said the industry, which at its peak in 1999 earned the economy US$770 million, will contribute a mere Z$3.4 billion this year.
Direct employment in the sector has also fallen from 128 244 in 2003 to 42 748 workers in 2004.
According to the World Tourism Council, Zimbabwe's industry has a potential to contribute more than 12 percent of GDP, which is the total value of goods produced by a country.
The sharp drop in tourism industry earnings comes amid revelations by players in the sector that the much-touted "Look East" policy would need more than 12 months to bear fruit.
It has been established that tourists from Asia, mainly China, which the Zimbabwe government has targeted as one of its potential source markets, were coming at concessionary rates.
Chinese visitors, whose spending patterns are far much lower than those of tourists from Europe and the United States, also travel in groups of 12 to 16 to get discounted rates.
Players in the tourism sector said on average, a single Western tourist spent about four times the amount of money a Chinese visitor would use.
Zimsun Leisure chief executive officer Shingi Munyeza said Chinese tourists were being charged US$30 per room while other visitors from around the world were being charged at rates more than US$60 per room.
This was mostly because the Chinese, who are not big spenders, had been complaining about punitive rates in Zimbabwe.
Average expenditure per Chinese tourist is about US$1 350 per eight-day trip, tourism industry players said.
"The Chinese market is getting the rates they want. We also look at which hotels would be suitable for them, depending on their own values. Since these people come in large numbers, the yield will just be the same with tourists from our traditional markets," Munyeza said.
Munyeza said it would take more than 12 months for the Chinese market to start making meaningful contributions to the economy.
The government has been harping on about the award of approved destination status (ADS) by China to Zimbabwe.
But the benefits could elude Zimbabwe, widely perceived unstable, because China has also approved ADS to other African countries such as Egypt, South Africa and Zambia.
"Arrivals from the traditional source markets such as the United Kingdom, America and Australia continue to decline as the hostility between these countries and Zimbabwe continues," Munyeza said.
Africa enjoys a 0.5 percent market share of more than 12.1 million travellers from China.
Analysts pointed out that the much expected Chinese tourist source market was failing to make an impact mainly because of travel logistics.
Whereas most international airlines are flying into South Africa, Zimbabwe is only being served by two.
This has also seen the multi-billion-dollar Harare International Airport being reduced to a white elephant, observers say.
"Direct flights to tourist destinations such as Kariba and Victoria Falls are not available from Harare. Victoria Falls airport needs lengthening, while the Hwange airport is in need of refurbishment," said Munyeza.
The cash-strapped Zimbabwe government has allocated a paltry $20 billion to the Civil Aviation Authority of Zimbabwe to revamp international airports.