Zimbabwe Tourism Authority, Chief Executive Officer, Karikoga Kaseke has shockingly dashed to the defence of the Zimbabwe Republic Police’s roadblocks saying their presence on the road has played in tourism’s favor.
This comes at a time when some players in the tourism and economic sector have blamed roadblocks, which have become excessive, for hampering the ease of doing business in the country.
Kaseke said the roadblocks have been helpful in curbing crime which has seen Zimbabwe being a destination of choice especially for new regional and continental tourists who enjoy the tranquil environment in the country.
“We want to applaud our security forces and law enforcement agents for guaranteeing peace and tranquility in the country. This has remained the hallmark of our tourism and is an attraction on its own. The Authority and the entire tourism industry appreciate the security initiatives particularly by the Zimbabwe Republic Police,
”We would want to categorically state that the ZTA and the entire tourism industry are in full support of the ZRP strategies to uphold law and order in the country. Tourists come to this destination to enjoy in a peaceful environment.
”We acknowledge and remain grateful to our police force for the role they have continued to professionally play locally and internationally where they have also represented the country so well through their participation in, among others, the United Nations Peacekeeping and observer Missions,” Kaseke said.
The ZTA boss said recently there were some concerns raised in Victoria Falls in terms of how his board need to improve collaborations with the police for national development.
He however dismissed claims that he was against the police checkpoints in and around the country but backed the move saying the police are there to enhance national peace and tranquility.
“My comments in Victoria Falls on the police roadblocks were misconstrued by some social commentators who thought we are against the ZRP check points. We are not against the very national duty that is ensuring peace and tranquility in the country. Where concerns have been raised by the tourism industry, we have positively engaged and we will continue to engage the ZRP,” Kaseke added.
He paid homage to Police Commissioner General, Augustine Chihuri saying the ZTA is proud of the support the industry has continued to receive particularly from the office of the police boss.
“Collectively in the sector we pay homage to Commissioner General Dr Chihuri for he values peace, social cohesion and freedom, virtues that he also fought for in the struggle for independence. Today the Zimbabwe Tourism Police is a model in the region on how the national police can collaborate with a national tourism body for tourism development,” he said.
The tourism sector has faced a myriad of challenges in recent years but it has managed to record a steady growth. In 2016 the country recorded 2,167,686 arrivals, 5% up from 2,056,588 received in 2015. The sector also registered an estimated US$819 million in revenue in 2016 hence a contribution of about 10.9% to the GDP.
This achievement, under the obtaining harsh economic environment, is largely attributed to the prevailing peace and tranquility that has been guaranteed by our security forces particularly the Zimbabwe Republic Police and other efforts by both the tourism players and government at large.
There have been number developments in the recent past, which are anticipated to spur further growth of the tourism sector.
The recent $ 150 million face-lift of the Victoria Falls International Airport, which was commissioned by His Excellency, President R.G. Mugabe in November 2016 is a game changer for the travel and tourism sector as it ushers in a new era of the country’s tourism development.
Victoria Falls is now an emerging regional aviation hub, connected to major regional capitals such as Johannesburg, Pretoria, Lusaka, Luanda, Windhoek, Gaborone and Maputo. Going forward Victoria Falls is expected to be the main tourist hub for the SADC region given its centrality.
To date numerous international airlines have shown interest in landing in Zimbabwe and these include RwandAir which recently introducing direct flights from Kigali, Rwanda. Kenyan Airways has likewise recently launched a direct route connecting Nairobi, Victoria Falls and Cape Town. South African Airlink is also expected to introduce daily flights from Cape Town to Victoria Falls from July 2017. Ethiopian Airlines made its first direct flight from Addis Ababa to Victoria Falls on 26 March 2017.
Whilst there have been some businesses which closed down in recent years due to economic challenges, recently there has been a notable rise in new investments. For instance the ZTA registered 28 new restaurants, 17 new guesthouses and 28 incentive travel organizers in the past 24 months. This goes to show that while things may seem grim, there are positive prospects in the country’s tourism sector.
The sector is expected to continue growing in line with global trends which project that tourism will continue to be the fastest growing economic sector internationally. Arrivals in Zimbabwe are estimated to reach over 2.3 million by the close of 2017 and over 3 million by 2020.