By Byron Mutingwende
Zimbabwe and South Africa are working on a common ground to improve tourism, which is a major contributor to the economic growth of both countries.
Priscah Mupfumira, Zimbabwe’s minister of tourism and hospitality, addressing journalists at the International Convention Centre in Durban soon after her courtesy call on her South African counterpart, Derek Hanekom, said there was need for the two neighbouring countries to support each other in growing tourism.
“Zimbabwe and South Africa should support each other on a number of tourism areas. As a sign of supporting that initiative, Zimbabwe has 51 tour operators exhibiting at the Africa’s Travel Indaba and South Africa has promised to reciprocate the same gesture at Zimbabwe’s Sanganai/Hlanganai Tourism Expo coming soon. We can also cooperate on improving service at the Beitbridge Border Post that we jointly share in making it friendly,” Mupfumira said.
South Africa is a major tourism source market for Zimbabwe and vice-versa. The political dynamics of the two countries are almost similar in nature since they both have new leadership.
Mupfumira proposed a joint exchange programme for nationalities of both countries employed in the tourism and hospitality industry. The other area to work on is on uni-visa in line with the Schengen model.
Minister Hanekom called for the strengthening of ties between the two countries so as to make regional tourism a force to reckon with globally. He said jointly managing trans-frontier parks was beneficial for both countries although rhino poaching remained a major challenge in South Africa.
“We will learn from Zimbabwe’s Communal Areas Management Programme for Indigenous Resources (CAMPFIRE) so as to raise awareness in the communities on the importance of wildlife conservation and educate them on the benefits of the initiatives. A tourism conservation fund in South Africa would encourage communities to reap gains from wildlife-based tourism which attracts the entire world to Africa,” Hanekom said.
Karikoga Kaseke, the Chief Executive of the Zimbabwe Tourism Authority (ZTA) said there was need for increasing hotel accommodation in prime tourism areas like the Victoria Falls.
“In Victoria Falls, the demand for hotel accommodation is outstripping supply. That is because the new political administration is spearheading the mantra that “Zimbabwe is Open for Business” and tourists and investors alike are flocking into the country.
“To continue this trend, there is also a need to improve air access. Around 1996, Zimbabwe used to have 45 airlines into the country but sadly the number has reduced to only 13. It’s good that the new administration is now allowing private operators in the airline business and with the removal of the previously hostile Indigenisation Act, we look forward to an influx of tourists and airlines into the country,” Kaseke said.