Zimbabwe: Zim Tourism Sector Eyes Brics Markets

ZIMBABWE'S tourism sector is looking to further tap into the BRICS markets as part of efforts to boost international tourist arrivals and enhance its contribution to the country's gross domestic product.Traditionally, the country's major source markets have been the Americas (particularly the United States of America) and the European Union.

The sector which is targeting to grow into a $5 billion revenue sector by 2020 and contributing 15 percent to gross domestic product, now sees extensive growth potential in the BRICS markets.

The BRICS is a bloc of fast growing economies comprising Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa.

Zimbabwe's tourist arrivals from China -- a member of the BRICS and the largest outbound tourist source in 2015 -- alone grew 32 percent in the first half of 2016, according to the Zimbabwe Tourism Authority preliminary report to June 2016.

Tourism is regarded one of the low hanging fruits with the quickest turn around, ahead of other sectors such as agriculture and manufacturing.

In a presentation to the Zimbabwe Defence College in Harare, Tourism and Hospitality Industry Minister Dr Walter Mzembi underscored the need to diversify into other markets where there is growth potential.

"We need to exploit the BRICS, but there are areas that we need to address in order to exploit the BRICS opportunity," he said.

"The growth of tourism is not where it was traditionally. Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa . . . That is where we are seeing growth as Zimbabwe tourism," the minister said.

Tourists' receipts average over $700 million per annum, which shows its potential to contribute towards economic growth and alleviate liquidity challenges currently prevailing in the country.

According to the Mid-Year Fiscal Policy Statement, tourist arrivals grew 16 percent to 450 752 during the first quarter of 2016 compared to 387 557 during the same period last year. Tourist arrivals from South Africa, the country's biggest trading partner, however, declined 2 percent in the quarter compared to same period in the prior year while those from DRC, Zambia and Tanzania weakened by 4 percent, 16 percent and 20 percent in that order.

Minister Mzembi said spreading into a wider market base also helps improve the country's perception which has been tainted through negative reports. He said there is a better chance of reversing the country's perception in real time after tourists experience the tranquility and vast natural resources in the country.

"This is why tourists should be harnessed as tools for diplomacy because they actually correct the perception, they will be able to see these images and will tell the world that it is actually peaceful here," he said.