THE resort town of Kariba registered significant growth in occupancy during the festive season, rising 22 percentage points to 59% in the period December 21 to January 4.
According to Zimbabwe Tourism Authority (ZTA) figures, Kariba occupancies improved from 37% in the comparable period in 2011.
The guests were made up of locals at 85% and foreigners at 15%. ZTA said the increase in tourists in Kariba was accentuated by the limited facilities in the resort town.
African Sun's Caribbea Bay Hotel led with an 83,6% occupancy.
However, Victoria Falls, at 63% occupancy, led all the resorts although this was a decline by six percentage points from 2011.
The decline is mainly attributed to the increase in rooms in the area after Victoria Falls Safari Lodge added 20 rooms to its facility and Khanondo Safaris added 16 luxury suites at its lodge in Chinotimba.
Victoria Falls will be under the spotlight when Zimbabwe, together with Zambia, hosts the United Nations World Tourism Organisation's General Assembly in August this year. The main objective of the conference is to promote the two countries as tourist destinations.
Nyanga/Juliasdale occupancies were little changed at 44% from 42% in the prior year, with 100% local guests.
In terms of city hotels, Bulawayo topped the occupancies at 48% from 28% the prior year, made up of 90% local and 10% foreign guests. Harare was on 29%, Mutare on 33% (60% Local vs. 40% foreign), Masvingo 29% (all local) and Midlands 12%, a decline of 2 percentage points from 14% last year.
Bulawayo registered an increase in occupancies because of the increased number of those returning from the Diaspora, mainly from South Africa, Botswana and Namibia. TA's Cresta Churchill led the Bulawayo hotels at 62,5% occupancy, Bulawayo Rainbow was at 50,2%, and Holiday Inn was at 38,7%.
According to government's Medium Term Plan, the tourism sector is targeting an increase of total tourist arrivals to 4 million by 2014, while rooms are forecast to grow to 15 000 in the same year from 6 248. However, Tourism minister Walter Mzembi revised the targeted 2015 arrivals to 5 million while it is hoped the sector will generate 15% of gross domestic product at that time.
The World Travel and Tourism Council Economic impact research report for 2011 to 2021 adjudged Zimbabwe to be the second fastest growing tourism economy in the world at a growth rate of 6,9% per annum, and average annual revenues of US$850 million for the period.