Kudakwashe Mhundwa and Michael Tome
HARARE – President Emmerson Mnangagwa`s state visit to the People`s Republic of China last year continues to pay dividends as the country yesterday received a 350 member Chinese delegation who are in the country to scout for new business opportunities and visit tourism facilities.
The delegation was met at the Robert Mugabe International Airport by the Minister of Environment, Tourism and Hospitality Prisca Mupfumira and other Government officials.
Briefing journalists after the arrival Minister Mupfumira said arrival of the Chinese delegation in the country symbolizes success of the MOU signed last year during President Mnangagwa`s state visit to China.
“It all started in China in April 2018 when his Excellency the President of the Republic of Zimbabwe had a state visit to China. During the state visit to China last year our Presidents met and declared that our friendship must graduate from being all weather friends to comprehensive strategic partnership.
“During the state visit a number of MOUs were signed by different Government departments and business people from China and Zimbabwe. One of the MOUs signed was between the Ministry of Tourism then and Touch Road International the MOU we signed included tourism and investment.
“Today we witness the first fruits of the MOU being realised by the arrival of this delegation, as a country we are delighted to receive them.
Minister Mupfumira said although the country was enjoying cordial relations with China it was not really benefiting much from the Chinese tourist market, a situation that she says will change for the better going forward.
“The visit heralds a new era in the Zimbabwe`s tourism sector, we are saying China is one of the biggest source markets for tourism in the world and we would want to get that share of the Chinese market.
“We have started this vigorous campaign because they will be coming monthly over and above this particular group other Chinese people will be coming, we will shortly be opening our tourism office in China and we will be participating in some of the most important fairs in China so that people know about Zimbabwe.
She also highlighted that the industry is looking at doubling its market share in the Chinese market this year on the back of a vigorous marketing strategy being undertaken by the industry.
“It is sad that over the years our performance has not been that good and we hope that with this thrust and also with the videos shot by the Chinese delegation we will be able to market Zimbabwe more. Our numbers as you are aware have generally been on the increase over the last 18 months and will continue on this trajectory and we want to have a better cake of the Chinese market.
“In 2016 Chinese arrivals were just around 5000, and with the coming in of the new dispensation we increased the numbers last we were at 19 000 and we hope to double that number this year our target is at least by year 2025 to be over 100 000 Chinese arrivals,” she said
Last year, President ED Mnangagwa paid visits to China twice and agreed with President Xi Jinping to elevate the two countries bilateral relationship to the comprehensive strategic partnership of cooperation.
Lately the cooperation has been boosted by the completion and taking off of some mega projects.
One is the Victoria Falls International Airport expansion project, which solidifies the position of the city as regional hub for aviation.
Zimbabwe has been recommended recently by multiple international agencies (China based) as a must-visit place a major reason for the Victoria Falls International Airport upgrading.
Now the Robert Gabriel Mugabe International Airport is also being upgraded and renovated with the assistance of China.
China has helped in the financing and completion of the Kariba South power plant expansion project, which added 300MW to the national grid, bringing down the bill of electricity.
Another big project, Hwange Thermal Power Station expansion is underway and will be completed in less than three years by the time of completion, it will have created 3 000 jobs for Zimbabweans and add another 600 MW to Zimbabwe and help it gain energy sufficiency.