Statistics from the Zimbabwe Tourism Authority (ZTA) show that tourist arrivals to Zimbabwe fell by eleven percent in 2019, to 2.29 million from 2.57 million in 2018, due to destination image issues associated with political violence following the August 2018 elections and January 2019 stay-away protests.
Most visitors came from within Africa and the Middle East region while the country registered declines in arrivals from Europe, the Americas, Oceania, and Asia. The ZTA said the harsh macroeconomic climate and rapid inflation contributed to the country’s decline in hotel occupancy rate over the same period. The situation deteriorated further in 2020 given the negative effects of the COVID-19 pandemic and resulting reduction in international travel.
In recent years, the government supported capital investment in the tourism sector by providing tax incentives and duty-free status on imports for certain categories of capital goods for hotels, restaurants, and safari operators. Wildlife photo and hunting tourism also offer enormous growth potential, but some wildlife conservancies had difficulty obtaining trophy hunting licenses from the government due to political maneuvering by individuals attempting to take ownership of the conservancies’ land in the guise of indigenization. U.S. law also prohibits the importation of elephant trophies into the United States.
Relatively low real estate prices in Victoria Falls offer opportunities in the construction of hotels and lodges. Furthermore, the designation of Victoria Falls as a Tourism Special Economic Zone and International Financial Centre should assist the town to attract much needed investments. Additionally, the government lengthened the runway at the Victoria Falls airport to accommodate all varieties of jumbo jets and created a new passenger terminal. That stated, the infrastructure (road, rail, water, telecoms, and energy) is outdated and in need of rehabilitation. As the world moves towards sustainable tourism, there are opportunities to offer specialized training on this subject as well as direct investment in eco-travel and adventure travel businesses. Zimbabwe Investment Authority (ZIA) also identifies opportunities in the construction of conference and convention centers, resorts and casinos, and shopping malls. Many of Zimbabwe’s lodges cater to high-end, luxury tourists, but should the volume of visitors increase, opportunities to develop locations serving the middle class market will grow.