International tourism presents opportunities and threats to Zimbabwe and Zambia

May 1, 2012

Zimbabwe and Zambia are preparing for a tourist boost in 2013 when hosting the United Nations World Tourism Organization general assembly to be held against the magnificent backdrop of the Victoria Falls. The event poses considerable leadership dilemmas


Zambia and Zimbabwe share historical ties, having been part of the pre-independence Federation of Rhodesia and Nyasaland when Zimbabwe was known as Southern Rhodesia, Zambia as Northern Rhodesia.

A Coastweek report written from Harare outlines the challenges:

The country’s debt ridden airline, Air Zimbabwe Holdings, was disbanded by government last month and replaced by a new company Air Zimbabwe Pvt Limited that is yet to start operating [April 2012]. It would be ironic that the two countries that [having won] the bid to co-host the big event don’t have national airlines. It does not augur well for the hosts’ image nor for the growth of their tourism industries.

At least for Zimbabwe, chances of it having a running national airline are much better compared to Zambia whose national carrier collapsed three years ago. Air Zimbabwe has six planes, most of them old, but recently acquired an Airbus A320 plane for leasing as it moves to revamp its flagging fortunes.

More than 2000 delegates are expected to attend the event. Safari Operators of Zimbabwe president Emmanuel Fundira said recently that without a national airline, the country would lose the opportunity to capitalize on potential revenue.

Emirates Airlines started flying into Zimbabwe this year while the South African Airways has reportedly increased flights to fill in the void left by Air Zimbabwe. Air Namibia, is set to resume flights to Zimbabwe next month, flying into the country four times a week.

Siamese States?

There appears to be a level of political harmony between the two governments. In a visit to Zimbabwe [April 2012] President Sata of Zambia and Robert Mugabe of Zimbabwe likened their countries to Siamese twins because of their shared history.

Mr Mugabe also congratulated Zambia’s recent football success after the Chipolopolo boys won the 2012 African Nations Cup, using the same three words he used on his 88th birthday celebrations earlier this year to end his remarks.

“The Chipolopolo boys have brought us pride and glory of victory at the last contest of Africa Cup of Nations. Makorokoto, Amhlophe, Congratulations!”

A source close to events in the story told Leaders we deserve:

Mugabe has turned a bread basket into a failed state, through a leadership that believes in imposition of will. Zambia and others have seen power acquired through the barrel of the gun. Ghana Airways was established by Nkrumah soon after independence in 1958, was run by political appointees, and collapsed with debts of over $160m, not an inconsiderable sum for a small country. This is why routes in Africa which are still lucrative are milked by foreign airlines.

Dilemmas of leadership

The opportunities for tourism offered by the planned event are clear. The challenges are also evident from the state of travel infrastructure, and the fragile economies of Zambia and Zimbabwe.