Looking on the web for some info about Zimbabwe (I’m visiting the Victoria Falls in a few days time), I stumbled across an article dated the 12 December in the Zimbabwean state-owned propaganda machine The Herald about how that beleaguered nation intends to make tourism a key foreign currency earner, increasing its contribution to the Zimbabwean GDP by 400% by 2010.
Apparently, the Zimbabwe Council for Tourism president somehow expects tourism-generated-foreign currency earnings to surge from US$ 50 million to $1 billion by 2010 — i.e. in the space of little over more than a year. He also miraculously predicts a global downturn-defying tripling of visitor arrivals from 1 million people to 3 million. He doesn’t explain where the money — or the visitors — will be coming from or quite why they’ll be swarming into the country in 2009 when they’ve been avoiding the place since the land invasions began in 2000.
In true Zanu PF mouthpiece style, The Herald blames the tourism industry’s current woes on the West:
Since then , it has been negatively impacted on by the harsh economic environment arising from warnings against travel to Zimbabwe from traditional source markets, resulting in reduced arrivals, low occupancies, job redundancies and business closures.
Sunny optimism won’t get Zimbabwe’s ruling cabal anywhere. It might make for uplifting newspaper copy but it’s certainly not going to save the nation. But then again, that’s the last thing the ruling party’s thugs are concerned with.
Thanks to Mugabe and his cronies’ systematic destruction of a once vibrant country and economy, the Zimbabwe tourism brand is dead — and is set to remain so for quite a while. Even were democracy to be restored and the Zanu PF dictatorship removed within the next few months (which, considering the current stalemate, is highly unlikely), there’s absolutely no way that there would be the kind of tourism growth projected by the ZCT. With a cholera epidemic, widespread starvation, chronic shortages, rolling power cuts, civil unrest and hyper-inflation, there’s a lot that needs to be resolved before most visitors even consider it a holiday destination option. Of course it doesn’t help that Zimbabwe Tourism’s website isn’t functioning either — although it’s hardly surprising and a rather more accurate reflection of the current state of Zimbabwe’s tourism.
Tourism will one day return to Zimbabwe which is an extraordinarily beautiful country with friendly, hospitable people. But, whatever The Herald might say, the day that visitors return en masse is still far, far away.
Read The Herald article on AllAfrica.com.