Moscow — The Zimbabwe Tourism Authority last week made a breakthrough into the Russian tourism market after clinching marketing deals with two of Russia's top 10 outbound tourist wholesalers participating at the Moscow International Travel and Tourism Fair.
ZTA sealed long-term tourism marketing deals with Ultra Travel and Kilimanjaro Travel companies after lengthy negotiations. Ultra Travel has been sending an average of 50 000 tourists per year to South Africa, Zambia, Tanzania, Mozambique, Kenya and South Africa, but has not been sending any to Zimbabwe owing to Western media propaganda.
Kilimanjaro Travel has been sending an average of 80 000 tourists to Africa per year. Under the deal, Ultra Travel will first bring 14 tourist company owners and managing directors from May 4 to May 14 2008 to Zimbabwe's prime tourist resorts that include the Victoria Falls, the Great Zimbabwe National Monuments, Hwange National Park, Antelope Game Park and Matopos National Park, among others.
In separate interviews after sealing the deals with ZTA chief executive officer Mr Karikoga Kaseke, Ultra Travel managing director Mr Mikhail Muraview said Zimbabwe was one of the best tourist destinations in Africa that should become a must for Russian tourists.
"We have been waiting for this kind of deal with Zimbabwe because the Victoria Falls is a must for every Russian tourist. There is also the Great Zimbabwe and game viewing in Hwange, so we should be able to move big groups of tourists to Zimbabwe. "We needed an organisation like ZTA to give us guidance and work out modalities of getting to Zimbabwe as a big tourist destination and now we have sealed the deal with ZTA and we are very happy. "I have been planning to take tourists to Zambia and Mozambique because of lack of knowledge on Zimbabwe. I am now shifting my focus to Zimbabwe because those who have been there have told me that stories in the British newspapers about violence and lack of human rights were not true."
Kilimanjaro Travel company director-general Mrs Marina Katkova, whose company is rated the second largest Russian tourist wholesaler in South Africa and second largest in Kenya and the biggest in Morocco, said she decided to market Zimbabwe after her company successfully exhibited at the A'Sambeni Travel Expo in Harare last year. "After the travel expo, we were taken to Great Zimbabwe, Matopos, Hwange and Victoria Falls and that is when I decided to market Zimbabwe. It is a unique destination, which many African countries we have been marketing cannot match," she said.
ZTA boss Mr Kaseke described the deal as the first breakthrough in the Russian market, but said a lot needed to be done to promote awareness in the Russian market.