HARARE, October 19 (The Source) – The number of Chinese tourists to Zimbabwe grew by half in the first six months of the year, pushing the overall increase in foreign visitors for the period up by seven percent, latest figures from the Zimbabwe Tourism Authority have shown.
Zimbabwe’s overall tourist arrivals were at 930,276 for the period, compared to 876,163 registered in the corresponding period last year boosted by mainly South African visitors, the ZTA said.
Arrivals from mainland Africa were 811,717, up from 745,566 in 2014 representing a nine percent increase.
“To a large extent, the increase in arrivals from South Africa (38 percent) boosted the rise in arrivals from mainland Africa due the big market share it commands,” the ZTA said.
Tourists from China increased to 3,973 from 2,730 recorded in the same period last year but continues to lag regional rivals. Official figures show that Zimbabwe has been receiving between 3,800 and 5,500 Chinese tourists per annum, against total arrivals of between 80,000 and 100,000 in neighbouring countries despite the two nations having signed the Approved Destination Status agreement in 2003 aimed at encouraging nationals from the Asian giant to prioritise Zimbabwe.
Zimbabwe even adopted a Look East policy that year to encourage trade ties with China and the rest of Asian bloc but still failed to attract visitors from the region.
The ZTA, which is targeting to get $5 billion in revenue from the tourism industry in the next three years, feels its destination awareness campaigns in China are bearing fruit.
“Research has shown that 81 percent of the Chinese arrivals entered through Harare International Airport, followed by Victoria Falls border with 6 percent, Victoria Falls airport with 5 percent and Kazungula with 3 percent. No single Chinese entered through Beitbridge border post,” said the ZTA in its 2015 First Half Tourism Statistics released last week.
The bulk of the Chinese coming through the Harare International airport are for business purposes.
“It is important to note that cumbersome visa procedures have been the major inhibiting factor for the growth of this market in Zimbabwe. Steps are already under way to improve the Visa regime so as to attract more from this global outbound giant,” ZTA said.
In the period under review, Europe contributed six percent of the arrivals, the Oceanic region and Asia contributed two percent each.
Arrivals from Europe declined by one percent — from 60,530 in 2014 to 60,021 in 2015 — with declines in major markets that included France, Germany, Italy, Nordic countries and Spain, pulling down the overall performance of the region.
But the region remains the biggest overseas market for the country. Arrivals from the Middle East contributed 0,2 percent to the total while ZTA noted that arrivals from Asia declined by eight percent to 14,999.