ZIMBABWE has been ranked as one of the worst tourist destinations in the world for the second year running, according to the Travel and Tourism Competitiveness Report for 2008.
The report released on Tuesday by the World Economic Forum (WEF) ranked Zimbabwe a dismal 117 from 130 countries.
Last year Zimbabwe was ranked 107.
Switzerland was ranked as the most attractive tourist destination followed by Austria and Germany. Spain, the United Kingdom, Sweden, Canada and France were all in the top 10.
In Africa, Tunisia led the way at 39 while Zimbabwe’s neighbours South Africa and Botswana were placed 60 and 87 respectively.
Jennifer Blanke, a senior economist at the WEF, said the 2008 report was not a beauty contest but a measure of factors that helped develop the travel and tourism industry.
“. . .We aim to measure the factors that make it attractive to develop the travel and tourism industry of individual countries. The top-ranked countries demonstrate the importance of supportive business and regulatory frameworks, coupled with world-class transport and tourism infrastructure and a focus on nurturing human and natural resources.”
The report says Zimbabwe’s ranking was low for a country endowed with natural resources and has Victoria Falls – one of the Seven Wonders of the World.
“. . .Zimbabwe ranks 33rd for natural resources overall, with a number of World Heritage natural sites, much protected land area and rich fauna. Despite these strengths, which have attracted tourists to Zimbabwe over the years, the index mainly highlights the country’s weaknesses in all of the other areas,” it said.
The policy environment was among the worst in the world (128), with rock-bottom assessments for laws related to Foreign Direct Investment and property rights.
The report raised concern on human resources capital with low enrolment rates in primary and secondary education by international standards.
Zimbabwe has experienced a severe brain drain of skilled personnel who are leaving the country in search of greener pastures in the region.
The report says Zimbabwe had one of the worst health indicators in the world: life expectancy is just 37 years.
But it said with better governance, the country would be back on track for improved travel and tourism competitiveness.
The latest ranking could dampen efforts by the Zimbabwe Tourism Authority (ZTA) to spruce up the country’s image, battered since the 2000 land reform programme.
ZTA has hired top entertainers from the West as part of its perception management programme.
But analysts say these efforts are addressing the symptoms, not the problem. They say resolving a political crisis is “the gateway to a flood of tourist arrivals”.