The coming to power of President Emmerson Mnangagwa in November last year has been a major boost for tourism with one of the country’s largest hotel groups saying its occupancy went up by 20 percent in the first half which is normally a dry period for tourism.
Brett Childs, chief executive of Brainworks, the major shareholder of African Sun hotels, said he was expecting an even better second half and was looking ad building new hotels to meet the expected growing demand.
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He said Brainworks was quitting the financial sector to concentrate on tourism because there was a huge potential for growth there since Zimbabwe had five world heritage cites, which was quite a substantial number for one country.
The world heritage sites are: Mana Pools, Khami Ruins, Matobo Hills, Victoria Falls and Great Zimbabwe.
African Sun has three hotels in the country’s prime tourism resort, Elephant Hills and the Kingdom as well as the Victoria Falls Hotel which it jointly owns with Meikles.
It has eight other hotels with one of them in the Hwange National Park which is adjacent to Victoria Falls.
Childs also said the new airport at Victoria Falls was another major contributor to the number of visitors as tourists could now fly directly to Victoria Falls instead of going to Harare first.
The hotel group has 800 beds in Victoria Falls alone but Childs said the resort was getting as many as 3 000 tourists a week.
Mnangagwa came to power in November last year after President Robert Mugabe was forced to resign following intervention by the military and moves by Parliament to impeach him.
He was elected for a five-year term in July though the opposition claims it won the presidential vote but it lost the case at the Constitutional Court.
In his State of the Nation Address on Tuesday, Mnangagwa said tourism was making notable improvements but there was need to improve infrastructure and product range.
“There is need, however, to improve tourism infrastructure, product range, quality and pricing of our products to make them more competitive,” he told Parliament.
“Stakeholders in this sector are encouraged to leverage on partnerships with other successful tourist destinations in the region, to jointly market products available in our country.
“Cities such as Bulawayo are challenged to consider marketing the opportunities around ‘meeting and event tourism’, taking into account the presence of the Zimbabwe International Trade Fair facilities.”