By Khanyile Mlotshwa
IN a major boost to Zimbabwe’s efforts to grow African tourism, the Zimbabwe Tourism Authority (ZTA), in conjunction with Kenyan Airways and the tourism industry, will be hosting a group of high profile Nigerian tour agents on a familiarisation tour of the country.
According to the ZTA Chief Executive Officer (C.E.O), Karikoga Kaseke,the tour operators participating in the familiarisation tour include Fidol Trips, TVP Adventures, World and Traveland, Nnenna Uwa Hub, Tour Brokers International and Kenya Airways.
“They will tour Matopos, Hwange and Victoria Falls from 11 to 16 March this year,” he said.
“We are happy to receive the Nigerian tour operators so that they can sample our product, which product we are confident will impress them to package and bring in the Nigerians.
“Naturally we are attracted to their numbers, with a growing population of 188 million with a rapidly growing youth population who are seeking adventure outside their borders, we can tap into their outbound tourism and realise growth in our own tourism cake.”
Nigeria is reportedly the highest consumer market in Africa. The tour comes at a time when arrivals to Zimbabwe from Nigeria had decreased by 25% to 1 979 from 2 641 in 2016.
Kaseke said the introduction of Kenya Airways flights into the Victoria Falls Airport has heightened interest by the West African tour agents who mainly target the adventure market.
“Statistics show that while most movement of Nigerians are internal, there’s significant traffic regionally and to the west as Nigerians are constantly looking for economic opportunities, increasingly pursuing higher education and most definitely participating in
tourism,” he said.
Kaseke bemoaned the lack of a direct air service to Zimbabwe from Nigeria, the fact that Nigerians still need visas for Zimbabwe and limited promotion budget from the fiscus which he said is hindering Destination Zimbabwe “from increasing tourism traffic from the heavily
populated and rich African biggest source market.”
The Nigerian nationals are in Category C of the visa regime where they have to apply for visas, mostly online, before travel.
“Until and unless these issues are resolved our expectation to tap into the Nigerian market will be cut short,” Kaseke said.
“Nevertheless, the strategic partnership between the ZTA and Kenyan Airways is much appreciated and very welcome as it presents vast opportunities for Zimbabwe to penetrate this huge potential market for both business and leisure travel.”
One of the tour operators to visit Zimbabwe, Uloma Egbuna said the familiarisation trip will give the Nigerian Tour Operators, especially those in Adventure tourism, a firsthand experience of Zimbabwe.
“The next five days will be a time of discovery of our Africa’s rich cultural heritage concentrated in one country,” he said.
“No wonder UNESCO has stamped 5 of its destinations (Mana Pools, Great Zimbabwe, Khami Ruin, Victoria Falls and Matobo Hills) as world heritage sites.
“It is our expectation that after this trip, the number of arrivals from Nigeria will significantly increase, as the Tour Operators will now sell this destination from a product knowledge perspective and not just as another destination read up online.”