Tourism Minister Marthinus van Schalkwyk ’s trip to Zimbabwe this week, where he will conclude a tourism accord with his Zimbabwean counterpart Walter Mzembi, signals a clear change in sentiment towards that country.
After years on the sidelines, the trip reflects a new optimism among hotel operators who believe that it is time to re-enter Zimbabwe.
The fragile power-sharing government of Prime Minister Morgan Tsvangirai and President Robert Mugabe appears to be holding and the economy is steadily improving, aided by the introduction of the US dollar.
Runaway inflation appears to be tamed and store shelves are again full of merchandise.
Van Schalkwyk’s visit, it is hoped, will provide a framework for closer collaboration between the two countries and make the region a more attractive tourist destination.
The minister is being accompanied by a delegation that includes SA Tourism CEO Thandiwe January-McLean and Mmatsatsi Marobe, CEO of the Tourism Business Council of SA (TBCSA).
“Until recently Zimbabwe was not a country you mentioned in polite company. But that seems to have changed recently with a return to some sort of political and economic stability,” says Protea Hotels MD Arthur Gillis.
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