By RON FANFAIR
Cognizant of Zimbabwe’s negative image in the international community, Deputy Prime Minister Thokozani Khupe was in Toronto last week promoting the landlocked African country as a destination of choice for potential tourists.
She was the guest of honour at the African Travel Expo organized by Zimbabwe-born travel and tourism executive, Patience Chirisa. The event, held at the downtown Sheraton Hotel, featured exhibitors promoting African travel, tourism and real estate products.
“This invitation comes at a time when Zimbabwe is going through a rebranding exercise,” said Khupe. “We are aware of our image in the world and would like to position ourselves as a safe, secure and peaceful nation.”
Bordered by South Africa, Mozambique, Botswana and Zambia, Zimbabwe – which has Africa’s highest literacy rate – has been mired in political and economic turmoil for the past decade.
Last Tuesday, southern African heads of state called on the international community to end sanctions against Zimbabwe after the country’s president, Robert Mugabe and long-time foe, Morgan Tsvangirai, formed a power-sharing government last February as part of a deal to end the political crisis that followed last year’s disputed polls.
Tourism has declined rapidly since a controversial land reform program was implemented in 2000.
Understanding the need, however, to kick-start the sector and inject much-needed tourism dollars into the cash strapped economy, Khupe played up the world famous majestic Victoria Falls and its national park which provide visitors with an opportunity to see elephants, cape buffaloes, white rhinos during drives and walking safaris as appealing tourist attractions.
“We have a unique and fascinating tourism destination which offers the best African experience to its leisure visitors and others interested in other travel opportunities,” she said. “Tourism contributes a lot to our revenues so the impetus is on us to provide a quality product and service to entice tourists.”
A graduate of Turin College in Italy, Khupe is the vice-president of the Movement for Democratic Change. Her mother, 71-year-old Catherine Mabhiza, died last March in a South African hospital following injuries sustained in a road accident while traveling from Bulawayo to Harare for her daughter’s swearing-in as deputy Prime Minister in February.