THE European Council on Tourism and Trade has unanimously adopted the recommendation of the panel of experts to name Zimbabwe as the world best tourist destination for 2014 as well as the favourite cultural destination of the year.
However, Zimbabwe’s success story is one that must be shared by the rest of its neighbours in the SADC region whose tranquil environment synchronised with that of Zimbabwe making it possible to be accorded the prestigious title for 2014.
This comes against the backdrop of the country’s successful co-hosting of the 2013 UNWTO General Assembly with Zambia which cleared negative perceptions which had been disseminated prior to the event by Western and some sections of the local media.
Although the award is expected to see an influx of foreign tourists in the foreseeable future, much of the work now lies in the hands of the country’s tourism stakeholders and the SADC region as a whole in order to see the growth of the sector and generation of sustainable revenue which has potential to make the region Africa’s tourism hub.
The region boasts of Great Zimbabwe, the second largest ancient man-made structure in Africa, Victoria Falls, one of the seven wonders of the world which is shared by Zimbabwe and Zambia, the Namib desert in Namibia, which is the only desert in the world to be inhabited by lions, elephants and rhinos and a rich cultural mosaic evident in the rest of Southern African community.
According to Southern Africa Development Community (SADC), the tourism industry in the region has grown rapidly in recent years contributing US$940 billion to the world economy in 2010, but the region has receipted only a small percentage of this figure.
This is hugely due to lack of meaningful policy structures to intensively harness from this lucrative sector by the respective governments in the region as it is well endowed with some of the unique tourist attractions on the African safari.
The SADC region has an edge over other parts of the region in being a favoured tourist destination in a number of ways. Firstly, the region enjoys socio-political stability which is an absentee in other parts of the continent. West Africa, for instance, has been hit by a wave of instability which compromises the security of prospective tourists.
The restless quest of destruction by the Boko Haram in Nigeria where state security seems to be overwhelmed by the terrorist activities including the recent abduction of over 200 girls deters tourists from visiting that part of the region.
In East Africa, South Sudan continues to be at war and the rest of that region has been hit by terrorist activities and civil wars as well, with the Westgate mall bombing in Kenya still fresh in our memories, the instability in Libya also stains North Africa and the marauding Seleka rebels in Central African Republic. This leaves the Southern African region as the only secure tourist destination on the continent hence the need to capitalise on marketing our destination to the rest of the world.
Secondly but not lastly, the SADC region has two of the continent’s economic powers, South Africa and Angola, who are second and third respectively and if intra – SADC cooperation is implemented they can help with lending other less fortunate states with funding to boost tourism infrastructure.
Source: Travel and Tour World