Tourism / Zimbabwe

A conversation with Walter Mzembi

What are the strengths of Zimbabwean tourism?
Our main strengths are peace and stability. Zimbabwe is strategically nestled in the peaceful Southern African region, and continues to attract spin-offs out of the meltdown in Northern Africa. A United Nations (UN) World Climate Agency reports that Zimbabwe’s climate is one of the best in the world, and dubbed Zimbabwe as “the most habitable country” as far as weather is concerned. Weather disasters do not occur here. We have a uniquely rich biodiversity. Zimbabwe’s flora and fauna are highly varied.

Zimbabwe shares its borders with a number of countries in the region, connecting it to 7 Trans-Frontier Conservation Areas (TFCAs), including the well-known Great Limpopo Trans-Frontier Park. Zimbabweans are known for their warmth and hospitality. On top of which, we have one of the highest literacy rates in Africa (at 95%).

What challenges does the industry face?
Perception continues to be a challenge for a lot of countries on the continent. You have the likes of CNN and other networks focusing on the hunger and diseases in Africa and forget to show the whole picture, which includes some pretty good things.
Another challenge are the stories around the perceived instability on the continent—the very same that are sold to Western source markets. This takes a toll to our country branding.

Lack of viable airline networks remain a challenge. Perhaps, in the future, we can come up with more regional airlines. We also need more international carriers. Emirates now fly into Zimbabwe. There is also KLM. We hope to have Qatar Airways one day.

What impact will hosting the UNWTO general assembly in 2013 have on the country?
What we are bringing here is a generational event. It is a lifetime event. It may not happen again in the next 5 to 6 generations. We would like to celebrate it. It is Zimbabwe’s wedding with the world.  Above all, this event will be a manifestation of Brand Zimbabwe. This includes our governance, our people, our investments, our trade, and our history.

We have to concentrate our efforts to make the best impact. At the moment, we are working on a Development Fund. $30 million will go to an infrastructure fund infrastructure with another $30 million going towards refurbishment. UNTWO’s decision to come and visit Zimbabwe next year is the biggest brand endorsement that the country has received in its history. It is not often for a country to get that kind of global investment. It is a huge brand investment.

What are the investment prospects for UAE investors?
We have set aside 1 200 hectares of land in the Victoria Falls area for the development of hotel and hospitality infrastructure. We would like to see some UAE-brand hotels occupying our skyline in that area. There are also investment prospects in theme parks in the same area. Our dream for Victoria Falls is for it to be similar to what Mauritius and Dubai are today. We are developing a Free Zone in the Victoria Falls area. That is our vision.