Hon. Mzembi presented Africa as “the new travel business frontier.” He envisions a kind of “African Schengen,” allowing for more open travel between African countries. He repeatedly mentioned “open skies and open borders” as a key way to increase tourism to Africa and within the continent. According to the minister, once business people visit Africa for leisure, they will begin to trade and invest in African business. African countries need to target these “business tourists” by linking travel to business, and by showcasing the lucrative business opportunities on the continent.
African tourism faces the obstacle of the African “brand issue.” Tourists and Westerners tend to lump all of Africa together even though the continent is geographically larger than the combined area of China, the U.S., Japan and several European countries. For example, even though the Ebola crisis only affected West Africa, the contagion negatively impacted markets across the continent. African nations need to change foreigner’s perception of the “African brand” by promoting their own country’s unique attractions. In addition, the minister plans to promote travel among African-Americans interested in their ancestral roots in Africa. Zimbabwe boasts incredible biodiversity and authenticity according to Hon. Mzembi. The Ministry of Tourism has pledged to sustain the authenticity of its natural environment, and attract visitors through sustainable tourism. An additional convenience is that Zimbabwe is the only African country that uses the U.S. dollar as its national currency, allowing for easier travel without the cumbersome foreign exchange process. Zimbabwe is currently focusing on developing and promoting Victoria Falls as a tourist destination, which has already been granted Special Economic Zone status and designated as a World Heritage Site. Further work includes the construction of a new airport and making the Falls and its surrounding wildlife more accessible to tourists.
Hon. Mzembi's presentation is available to ATA members in the Members Only section of the website.