If the Minister of Hospitality and Tourism for Zimbabwe, Walter Mzembi, has his way, going forward, tourism will be contributing 15 percent to the gross domestic product by 2012. Tourism in his country is the only sector that has shown growth even when the economy started sliding into the recession, and 1 in every 12 of Zimbabwe’s people is employed in tourism.
The government estimates there will be 3 to 3.5 million visitors in the coming year, riding on the back of the World Cup 2010. The minister said they are working with South Africa and see this as an international event that should be taken advantage of, commenting, “South Africa will be the platform, Africa will be the theater.”
Will the infrastructure of Zimbabwe be prepared to meet the demands of this expected upsurge in tourism? According to Mzembi: “The infrastructure is still very much intact. What it needs is a bit of capital to spruce it up. The product is tired; it has not been renewed for the last 10 years.” In contrast, Zambia has invested heavily in tourism. Mzembi commented: “They took advantage of our 10 years of isolation. But we are not unhappy about that, we are very happy – it is complimentary. What we see is they are the back side, we are the front side, and together we make the whole sum unit.”
Minister Mzembi invited Geoffrey Lipman, assistant secretary general at the UN World Travel Organization and his team to visit Zimbabwe in order to come up with solutions to their own particular tourism challenges. From that visit, UNWTO designed a specific roadmap for the country, and Mzembi said, “We were quite happy for the intervention.”
With the Obama administration in place, Minister Mzembi said he is looking forward to a more engaging relationship between the 2 countries and stated: “We must begin the process of reworking that so that we allow our people to engage in a more peaceful and engaging way, and politics should never come in the face of tourism. We must depoliticize the sector so that we allow our people to then conduct and to influence each other and live in a more international way.”