Africa: How Zimbabwe has become the world’s top tourist destination

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A few weeks ago, Lonely Planet, perhaps the number one travel publication in the world, released their top 10 countries to visit in 2019. Zimbabwe was number three. A few days later, National Geographic released their own 2019 ‘cool list’ of must-visit destinations. Again Zimbabwe featured highly, coming ninth in the world, and the top destination in Africa.

Soon after, Vanity Fair, another top magazine, featured a lengthy article on Zimbabwe in its travel section entitled “Zimbabwe: Fresh Winds A-Blowing”, detailing in depth why Zimbabwe is perhaps the hottest destination in global tourism today. And to cap it off, just a few days ago, the Financial Times, possibly the world’s top financial newspaper, led its travel section with a full page article from ex-Zimbabwean Graham Boynton, who returned to the country of his birth for the first time with his daughter.

One month, four of the world’s most influential publications, four glowing reviews of Zimbabwe as a tourism destination. And all four pieces had one thing in common – a recognition that in the post-Mugabe era, Zimbabwe is now open again.

National Geographic wrote how “With Mugabe gone, Zimbabwe’s new president, Emmerson Mnangagwa, seems keen to invest in tourism;” Lonely Planet wrote how post-Mugabe there is a new sense of hope across the country; the Financial Times writes of the ‘buzz’ of the new Zimbabwe; and Vanity Fair led their article with the sentence, “A year after Robert Mugabe stood down, Zimbabwe is ready to be discovered again.”

We Zimbabweans can be our own harshest critics. And rightly so. Things are tough today, and for a people who have been let down so many times, it is prudent to be sceptical of our leaders.

But perhaps, as we enter a New Year, for once we should look on the positive side. The world seems to be sitting up and taking notice of the changes underway in Zimbabwe. The world’s tourists are being actively encouraged to come and see for themselves, and for a country lacking foreign currency, this is a crucial step.

Let nobody be under any illusions – this sort of thing would have been unthinkable under Mugabe. Nobody was encouraged to come to Zimbabwe then. But now, things are changing.

Our leaders may not be perfect, but they have created the conditions for Zimbabwe to be talked of once again as one of the world’s leading tourism destinations. And that is a hugely positive step.

by Jealousy Dutiro

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