Africa Best: British Holidaymakers will Flock to Zim After Mugabe Departure

Freed from Robert Mugabe’s clutches, Zimbabwe is poised to be one of next year’s hottest holiday destinations.

It’s a pattern we’ve seen before in pariah states. Tourist numbers in post-apartheid South Africa soared after Nelson Mandela became president in 1994. 

The same thing happened after Burma made its first moves towards democracy in 2010.

“British clients didn’t stop coming for reasons of safety,” says Chris Worden, a veteran Zimbabwean safari guide. “They stopped coming because they didn’t want to line Bob’s pockets.”

“In 1999, 35% of our clients chose Zimbabwe,” says Bill Adams, of the British travel company Safari Consultants. From 2000, when land grabs, human-rights abuses and rampant corruption took hold in the country, bookings from British travellers began to dry up.
Hwange National Parks 

Unlike Burma and South Africa, however, Zimbabwe has surprisingly little work to do to make it a highly appealing proposition for tourists.

Even in the darkest years of Mugabe’s rule, Zimbabwe offered the best safaris in Africa. Its camps came without spas or mints on pillows, and the wine choice was limited to white or red, but the passion and pride of those involved in the industry, and the richness of the wildlife, made game drives in other nations seem as tame as a spin around Longleat. And at half the price.

It has the finest parks. Mana Pools, on the banks of the Zambezi, is the bush of your dreams. 

In the past four years, wildlife numbers in Hwange National Park, on the Botswanan border — where conservation has been funded by private enterprise, not the government — have increased by between 3% and 17%, depending on species. 

Hwange is now home to 45 000 elephants.

The guiding, governed by a tough apprenticeship scheme, is the best on the planet — and, to top it all, Zimbabwe is home to Victoria Falls.

“There’s huge pent-up demand from those who have stayed away for moral reasons and curiosity from those who have yet to visit,” says Beks Ndlovu, of African Bush Camps.

“We’ll definitely see an increase in visitors, and we’re ready,” says Chris Roche, of Wilderness Safaris, based in South Africa. “The airport at Victoria Falls has been upgraded and camps have been improved.”

A resurgence of tourism is, however, unlikely to be without its pitfalls. Amid all of Zimbabwe’s problems, conservation is unlikely to be President Mnangagwa’s first priority. “The threat is that a huge tourism boom will cause rates to rise and quality to fall,” Roche says.

Fingers crossed, the post-Mugabe Zimbabwe can cope with and harness its influx of tourists. A safari in Zim is already the best in Africa. Book now before the prices go up. - The Times

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