The tourism industry’s targets of becoming a multi-billion dollar revenue sector got a major boost this week after Zimbabwe was ranked third best tourist country to visit in 2019.
Lonely Planet, an independent global travel guide book publisher, rated Zimbabwe the third best travel country after Sri Lanka and Germany.
The annual travel guide — Best in Travel — ranks the best and must-visit countries, regions, cities and best-value destinations for 2019. The book features the top 10 countries, cities, regions and best value destinations. It also gives guidance on new attractions for families, best new openings and experiences, best new places to stay and top travel trends.
The latest development comes at a time Zimbabwe is angling for a boom in the tourism industry and tap into the global trillion dollar industry.
“Not only is (Zimbabwe) one of Africa’s safest destinations, it’s one blessed with ultra-friendly locals, Big Five-filled national parks, World Heritage-listed archaeological ruins, forested mountains and of course, the mighty Victoria Falls,” said Lonely Planet.
Zimbabwe is one of the two African countries that made it on the top ten list together with Sao Tome and Principe.
Senegal’s Dakar and Meknes of Morocco were the only two African cities that made it in the top 10 cities to visit in 2019.
“These are the places to experience in 2019,” said Lonely Planet’s editorial director Tom Hall, in a press release.
“They might be coming into their own, celebrating a once-in-a-lifetime event or simply have been overlooked for too long — whatever the reason, now is the time to plan a trip.”
The country’s tourism industry has been on a growth trajectory with increased number of visitors coming into the country.
The sector has also been identified as one of the low hanging fruits and anticipated to experience a boom on the back of economic optimism ushered in by President Mnangagwa’s administration.
Last year total annual tourist arrivals were estimated at 2,3 million, an increase of 6,10 percent from 2,17 million in the prior year.
Average hotel room occupancy rate increased by 2 percent to 48 percent in 2017 and the figure is projected to grow this year. Infrastructural refurbishments including the Victoria Falls International airport, commissioned in November 2016, was instrumental in improving accessibility into the country, particularly the resort town.
Tourism Business Council of Zimbabwe president Tich Hwingwiri, said the latest rankings by Lonely Plant were an endorsement of the country as a safe tourist destination, contrary to the negative image that has been portrayed by some sections of the Western media.
He said the marketing efforts that have been put in place to project brand Zimbabwe were beginning to pay off although more still needed to be done to capitalise on the positive rankings.
“This means all the efforts towards marketing the country are being recognised as our indices are improving, this is an endorsement of our country,” he said by telephone.
“What we need to do now is increase the products we offer as a tourist destination so that tourists’ length of also increases. We are poised for success as a sector and Victoria Falls is a case study we can use, it has been improving,” he said.
Zimbabwe is currently ranked 114th out of 141 in the Travel and Tourism Competitiveness Index, and is expected to experience a boom in tourism in 2018, with tourist arrivals projected to reach 2,5 million on the advent of heightened economic activity following last year’s political reforms.
The projection of 2,5 million tourist arrivals in 2018 is attainable as the Government intends on relaxing the visa policy for tourists to incentivise international tourists.
Additionally, the thrust is to strengthen destination marketing, paying special attention to high-spending markets to increase tourism receipts in 2018 should benefit the country’s tourism industry.