Tourism is on the rise in Zimbabwe. Gambling is quite popular and the country has one of the largest concentrations of casinos in all of Africa. Tourism and, in turn, gambling makes up a major part of the economy of our nation, and tourism has steadily gone up for the last six years. Over 1.9 million international tourists visited the country in 2015.
The direct contribution of travel and tourism to the GDP has increased almost 66% from just under $475 million in 2010 to well over $679.7 million by the end of 2014. It is currently ranked number 50 out of 184 countries for growth in tourism and its importance to the economy of the nation, and it is ranked 51 in long-term growth from 2015-2025.
The New Vacation Destination
There is increased popularity for Zimbabwe as a destination for not only African natives, but also with European and American tourists, and over 86% of the travel & tourism spending is for leisure travel as opposed to business. This decade also brings an increased popularity for adventure tourism. A 2013 Adventure Tourism Market Study was released showing that adventure tourism has risen 65% per year since 2009 and it was a $263 billion industry in 2013.
Zimbabwe has a unique opportunity to become not only the adventure tourism capital of Africa, but also the most luxurious destination the continent has to offer. The foundation for both is in place and now is the time to build on it, however, getting to Zimbabwe can be one of the most challenging parts of planning a vacation for international tourists. Most flights must come in through Johannesburg, making costs less appropriate for the budget traveler.
With that in mind, the tourism trade in Zimbabwe needs to begin marketing toward the affluent traveler with higher end tours, more luxurious resorts and the ability to host major events.
Zimbabwe, The Land of Adventure
Zimbabwe is called “The Country of Rainbows” for good reason. It also offers a wide range of adventures from rugged African safaris to houseboat adventures at Victoria Falls. The Eastern Highlands mountain range offers unique horseback riding as well as golfing and hiking and the Matobo Hills offers one of Zimbabwe’s prime wildlife sanctuaries for, among other animals, a large population of white rhino and the ever elusive black rhino. There are walking, riding and camping safaris available.
Victoria Falls is one of the 7 Wonders of the World, and something that belongs on everyone’s bucket list. For the adventure tourist, there is bungee jumping, speedboat racing and helicopter flights. For the less adventurous tourist, there are houseboat homes available to act as a home base for any safari. Daily sighting of hippo families make having coffee on the deck an adventure in itself.
Glamping (glamorous camping) is still relatively new to the area. While there are many day and overnight camping safaris, there are few luxury camping safaris available to the wealthier tourist. Nearby countries, Tanzania and Botswana offer two of the world’s top ten luxurious glamping experiences, making it imperative Zimbabwe follow suit.
Making the Cities a Luxury Oasis
Tourists generally arrive in Harare from Johannesburg. There are currently 16 casinos in Zimbabwe with almost half in or near Harare. Only a few offer restaurants or hotel accommodations such as the Carribea Bay Resort & Casino and the Regency Casino Harare & Rainbow Towers Hotel. Most are simply casinos primarily offering slot machines. Harare is perfectly positioned to become what Monte Carlo is for Europe, Las Vegas for the United States and Macau for the Orient.
In the early 2000s, Macau was just a gambling destination for locals and Asian travelers from Hong Kong. The casinos were brightly lit with fluorescents, full of smoke and people elbowing each other and altogether not an attraction for the international tourist.
In 2006, Las Vegas casino owners and investors took notice and changed the face of Macau forever. Smart investors saw an opportunity to be the first Vegas-like gambling presence in the orient, in the same way that a number forward-looking entrepreneurs have involved themselves with casino gaming throughout history. Macau now boasts hotel casinos from Wynn Resorts, Las Vegas Sands, Galaxy Entertainment Group (MGM), the Venetian and the City of Dreams (Hard Rock, Crown and Hyatt). Because of this Macau had over 30 million tourists in 2015 and an unemployment rate of only 2%.
The Vision for Harare
Zimbabwe can attract the attention of major investors by simply be beginning the process of committing to becoming the luxury resort and gambling Mecca of Africa. Improving the existing casinos by adding restaurants, luxury hotel accommodations and shopping.
Harare can follow in the footsteps of Las Vegas and Macau and create 15,000 seat event centers and invite conventions, musical guests and live sporting events. With the addition of new facilities, even Las Vegas showed a 21% increase in convention, concert and sporting event attendance in 2015.
People want to travel to Africa. U.S. News listed African cities Cairo and Cape Town in their top 15 World’s Best Places to Visit, making Africa second only to the U.S. in most desired continent to visit. With a renewed commitment to tourism, Zimbabwe could become the luxury adventure capital of the next decade.