Atta CEO: Tourism to Zimbabwe flourishes despite sanctions

From Nigel Vere Nicoll's recent article:

According to the distinguished Zimbabwean economist, John Robertson, the sanctions did not really affect the country directly, but it was, he says “the lack of earnings from the exporting companies in the country that meant that there was a shortage of money that might have been of assistance to the hospitals to prevent the cholera epidemic or money that might have been available to maintain the electricity supplies or the roads or the water supplies or whatever. So the lack of money was because we were no longer earning it. Once land reform started we lacked the ability from then on to service the debts we already had and therefore it was enormously difficult to borrow yet more money when we were not servicing the debts that were already in place. So all these were very much the effects of land reform and not the effects of sanctions.”

So, in a way, these remaining sanctions do not hurt those whom they are aimed at but, as always, it is ultimately the people on the street who lose out, as the adage says, “ultimately less investment means fewer jobs”.

Have these sanctions affected tourism to Zimbabwe?

Yes, probably, as in the early days arrivals into Victoria Falls dropped from 190 000 in 1999 to just 84 000 between 2002 and 2010 mainly due to negative media reports and negative travel advisories. But the tourism industry has proved remarkably resilient as those in tourism have successfully managed to avoid politics and get on with the job of selling tourism to one of Africa’s shining jewels. The turning point was perhaps in 2013 when UNWTO held its General Assembly in the region, co-hosted by Zambia and Zimbabwe. This sent a global message that Zimbabwe was open and safe for tourists and since then the arrival figures are climbing back up.

Some sanctions do continue, yet tourism arrivals over the last year reached close to the 200 000 mark in Victoria Falls, despite the Ebola threat, which cast a shadow over all tourism in sub-Saharan Africa, fuelled by a media hype for something that never touched the region. This strong recovery is a remarkable achievement indeed, and tourism will undoubtedly contribute significantly towards the socio-economic development of Zimbabwe, and the Government already recognises tourism as one of the three pillars of the economy. 

In the words of one commentator: “Sanctions, what sanctions? We have one of the Seven Wonders of the World and no sanction could ever take that away.”