afrol News, 9 July - Zimbabwe has become a more popular tourist destination since the formation of the transitional government. The number of tourist arrivals rose three percent last year and reached two million.
Zimbabwean government analysts attribute this increase to Prime Minister Morgan Tsvangirai's move to form a transitional government with his long-time rival Robert Mugabe, saying this "brought relative stability and peace to the country and let Western nations to lift their travel warnings against Zimbabwe."
The total number of tourists rose from 1.9 million in 2008 to 2 million in 2009, according to figures made available by Zimbabwe Tourism Authority in its annual report. The agency's report especially highlighted the value of the increase given the general decline in tourist arrivals in 2009.
"The effects of the transitional government which was formed in February 2009 and the consequent lifting of travel warnings against Zimbabwe by some of the country's major source markets such as Japan, the USA and Germany contributed to the increase in tourist arrivals," the report said.
Tourism receipts totalled US$ 523 million in 2009, up from US$ 294 million in 2008, according to the report, which added that overseas arrivals contributed 17 percent of total arrivals.
Tourism used to be one of Zimbabwe's fastest growing sectors but collapsed dramatically as bad publicity attracted by the previous government's controversial land reform programme, political violence and human rights abuses saw scared foreigners shunning the country.
Warnings against visiting Zimbabwe issued by Western countries that are the traditional source markets for Zimbabwean tourism only helped worsen matters for the sector.
Prime Minister Tsvangirai has placed the tourism industry at the core of the transitional government's efforts to turn around Zimbabwe's economy. Mr Tsvangirai has said the tourism industry could be transformed into a US$ 1 billion industry in five years.
"This intention is only shattered by a severe cash strap, which makes the refurbishment of airports, roads, telecommunications, hotels and other related infrastructure necessary to attracting visitors very difficult," according to an analysis from the Harare PM offices.
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