21 October 2012

Zimbabwe: Politics, Tourism Inextricably Linked - Mutambara

ZIMBABWE'S political issues are inextricably tied to the tourism sector's drive aimed at projecting a positive image about the country, a senior government official has said.

Speaking at the Sanganai/Hlanganani World Travel & Tourism Africa Fair Business Forum in Harare last week, Deputy Prime Minister Arthur Mutambara underscored the importance of governance as a key variable in the tourism brand promotion drive.

"There is no way of dealing with problems facing tourism without addressing the politics. The way the country is run, the way we govern ourselves, we must do that positively," said Mutambara.

"If the politics is not working, it will be difficult to have a broad position on tourism and trade among other variables."

He said tourism, trade, governance, people, culture and investment were important variables in developing a positive destination image for the country.

Mutambara's remarks came against a background where government and the Zimbabwe Tourism Authority are conscientiously working towards promoting the country's tourism brand name, "A World of Wonders."

Following a decade-long economic recession fuelled by political bickering between the country's leading parties, a number of companies wound down operations while others closed altogether.

The tourism sector was not spared the ravages of hyperinflation either as the product suffered the setbacks brought about by consequent negative international perceptions on Zimbabwe.

This year, the Sanganai/Hlanganani World Travel & Tourism Africa Fair attracted a total of 257 different exhibition stands, reflecting an increase of 206 last year and 169 in 2010. Over 85 of the exhibitors were foreign, an increase from 24 in 2011 and 19 in 2010.

The year's event ran under the theme Celebrating Africa's tourism Diversity with a total of 1 200 exhibitors, which is a 61% increase from last year.

Speaking at the same event, Civil Aviation Authority of Zimbabwe (Caaz) chief executive officer, David Chawota told delegates that Harare International airport was undergoing major refurbishments as part of efforts aimed at improving the country's aviation sector.

"There is need to look at this from a global perspective, in terms of how Caaz is approaching its programmes," he said.

"Harare International airport is undergoing major aviation infrastructure refurbishment. There is one facility that may not be in sync with other systems."

He said that programmes were in place aimed at modernising systems, managing operations of the airport with the objective that flight scheduling meet capacity,

"We are currently developing our systems with a target of attaining 80% efficiency," he said.

Earlier this month, South African Airways pilots cancelled its evening flights from Johannesburg to Harare citing poor lighting on the runway. They reportedly said that they would not fly in the evening until the situation was dealt with.

"Landing ultimately became an issue of the decision made by the captain on whether or not he wanted to land. The facility needs to be sorted out by way of calibration. Within a fortnight we should have sorted out the problems and night flights can then resume," Chawota said.

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