ZIMBABWE should package its tourism products along with neighbouring countries in Southern Africa so the country can tap into the vast market offered by Malaysia, a leading tour operator has said. Speaking here after meeting Zimbabwean tour operators and travel agents on a familiarisation tour of Kuala Lumpur facilitated by Ethiopian Airlines yesterday, Mr Jason Lim, managing director of Golden Tourworld Travel, said Zimbabwe could become a more popular destination.
"We would like to have a multiple package for Zimbabwe to include neighbouring countries like Botswana and others, at least three of them, and making it a 12-day trip. This will enable the clients to have a more multiple experience in Africa," he said.
He said Zimbabwe should emphasise on marketing the abundant natural heritage the country has and focus should remain on Victoria Falls but also actively market its safari product. With 13 million outbound tourists annually Malaysia remains an untapped market.
"I was in Victoria Falls 10 years ago but I haven't been on a safari in the country as yet."
He said Malaysians would be keen on coming to Zimbabwe because its name sounds very charming along with Victoria Falls. "Nowadays travellers like to look for something that's closer to nature. We have been to all the major cities in Asia. Africa is the next hot destination for Malaysian travellers," noted Mr Lim.
Zimbabwe is largely unknown to Malaysians and Mr Lim pointed out that a lot of his fellow countrymen have not been to that part of Africa unlike Egypt and South Africa which have been more exposed because of flight accessibility.
There is potential for Zimbabwe but it takes a lot of promotion for it to be up there with some of Africa's leading destinations, he said.
Mrs Elvin Goh, a tour executive with the same company, added that Zimbabwe should exploit its diamonds on a large scale because Malaysians love precious stones.
"We were in South Africa last December and we visited one of their diamond factories which was a wonderful experience. The diamonds in South Africa are pure and reasonably priced while in Malaysia they tend to be expensive because of the high tax. If Zimbabwe can offer the same then you would see more Malaysians visiting your country," said Mrs Goh.
She added that the average Malaysian traveller could spend between US$2 500 and US$3000 on a single visit.
Speaking on the sidelines of a Malaysia-Africa business forum yesterday, Zimbabwe's Ambassador to Malaysia, Mr Cuthbert Zhakata, said more needed to be done to market the country in Malaysia.
"Zimbabwe is not well known here and a lot more marketing needs to be done. I have spoken to our country's tourism authority, but it seems they are only keen on maintaining and growing the markets that they have," he said.