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Little expected from journalists’ visit

Ndamu Sandu

ANALYSTS say inviting Russian journalists to tour Zimbabwean resort areas will not change the country’s present negative image.

s-serif”>They say the prevailing political and economic climate is not conducive to recovery and, as such, would not lure tourism revenue into Zimbabwe.

Last week six journalists arrived in the country for a tour of various resort areas.

After the tour the group, which is in Zimbabwe at the invitation of the Zimbabwe Tourism Authority (ZTA), will produce a documentary to be broadcast on Russian television.

ZTA marketing and communications director Givemore Chidzidzi said the tourism promotion body was coordinating the programme.

“Air Zimbabwe is chipping in with air fares, hotels with accommodation and tour operators with transport,” he said.

Chidzidzi said the arrival of the journalists was part of an on-going dialogue between Zimbabwe and Russia.

Last year print journalists from Russia were in the country on a similar exercise.

Economist John Robertson while lauding ZTA efforts, said the marketing thrust should have targeted richer nations.

“Although there are some rich people in Russia, our thrust should have been around the wealthy markets such as the European and North American markets,” he said.

He said if the thrust was on wealthy nations, the industry would witness more tourist inflows.

Robertson said more work needed to be done including tidying up the customs department and creating a tourism-friendly environment.

He said there was still a long way to go before the tourism industry recovered.

Last month a delegation from the American Travel Bureau (ATB) lambasted ZTA’s marketing strategy saying it was too shallow to attract international tourists.

ATB, an American travel agency that helps establish relationships between travel, business and tourism industry, said there was need for a complete overhaul of the marketing strategies for the Zimbabwean tourism industry.

“We have had an exceptional experience on fabulous locations,” ATB’s sales and marketing vice president Ray Gary told reporters after the tour.

“But the biggest impact above everything else was the people. Those who have never been here before do not understand what Zimbabwe is.”

The slump in tourist arrivals has impacted negatively on tourism revenue.

Receipts from the industry tumbled to US$75,7 million in 2002 from an all time high of US$201,6 million in 1999.

According to World Travel and Tourism Council (WTTC), directly and indirectly the travel and tourism industry constitutes 11% of global gross domestic product (GDP) (US$3,575 billion) and accounted for 8% of worldwide employment.

It estimated that by 2010, the travel and tourism economy’s contribution is estimated to grow to 11,6% (US$6,591 billion) of global GDP.

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