Zimbabwe has opened a tourism marketing office in Russia after realising that Moscow was fast becoming the world’s second biggest emerging tourist market, after China.
The opening of the office was prompted by the phenomenal growth of the Russian economy since the turn of the millennium produced a super-wealthy upper class and an expanding middle class with a penchant for travelling and high spending. The World Travel Organisation’s scale of spenders’ latest standings puts Russian tourists among the top 10 spenders in the world.
In a joint statement yesterday, Zimbabwe’s Ambassador to China, Cde Phelekezela Mphoko, and Zimbabwe Tourism Authority chief executive Mr Karikoga Kaseke said the office was tailored to explore and capture the Russian market that has more than 50 billionaires in United States dollars that have a strong spending appetite.
The office will be at the Zimbabwean Embassy in Moscow and will soon be followed by the opening of several other regional offices around Moscow to complement the main office. Cde Mphoko said the embassy had been working hard to create a conducive atmosphere for the subsequent opening of the office so that Zimbabwe can realise its dream of bringing home a huge chunk of the Russian tourists.
“In the past two years, we have worked tirelessly to bring a huge chunk of Russian tourists to Zimbabwe and we sent two groups of influential people and businessmen to appreciate what we have.
“We also have another group that will visit Zimbabwe to explore tourist investment opportunities. But for now what is important is that we are opening an office to deal with the development of the Russian market so that it channels thousands of tourists to Zimbabwe.
“The market is there, what Zimbabwe needs to do is to make sure that it puts into place all logistical arrangements for fluent travel to Zimbabwe,” said Cde Mphoko.
Mr Kaseke said after the opening of the office the main challenge was now to come up with the crucial air link between Zimbabwe and Russia.
At the moment people travelling between the two countries connect via Paris, France and South Africa while others fly Air Zimbabwe to Dubai then connect to Moscow.
“We are taking this big market seriously and we are not going back on that one. This is why we have moved fast to open the office and start the work rolling. There is also an immediate need for the establishment of a direct flight between Harare and Moscow and we are now beginning to seriously work on that link.
“We have discovered that this is a serious market that needs to be developed for the products that we have. The product we are selling is too good, but we need to work on the travel arrangement for easy access,” said Mr Kaseke.