Zimbabwe and Africa have been urged to exploit the Chinese tourism market, a development that could be a game changer in the economies within the SADC region.

Unpacking the Chinese tourism market, Zimbabwe Tourism Authority (ZTA) CEO, Dr Karikoga Kaseke explained that Zimbabwe and Africa especially the SADC region can capitalise on the good relations they have with China to facilitate the growth of the tourism economy.

He said currently, China, whose gross domestic product (GDP) stands at $10 trillion and with over 1.3 billion people, has an outbound tourist population of 140 million per year which is expected to balloon to 200 million by 2020.

“Statistics however show that of the current 140 million tourists from China accounts for 70 percent while the rest of the world gets 30 percent with Africa only attracting 2 percent and of this 2 percent, 73 percent goes to countries like Egypt, South Africa and Angola, while Zimbabwe receives a paltry 14 000 Chinese tourists per year, yet the country was given approved destination status by China as early as 2004,” said Dr Kaseke.

“China has the largest outbound tourism population in the world and that market is critical to the world tourism economy and Zimbabwe must work with the other countries in the region to package the destination and improve on the volumes of Chinese travelers who come to Southern Africa for the benefit of these economies,” added Dr Kaseke.

In his presentation, Steve Zivanai Kezhau, a Chinese national who lives in Zimbabwe and is a tour operator, said with Zimbabwe being open for business, the tourism sector can contribute 50 percent of the country’s GDP through the China tourism market that continues to swell every year.

He challenged the local tourism players to package their cultural activities properly as the Chinese are keen to explore our culture.

He added that hotels must also understand that Chinese tourists want to be accommodated in the best hotels and prefer vegetarian diet and have no obsession with meat.

“A Chinese traveler wants to see the local culture, and they want the best hotels with internet connectivity and again on food, they don’t like eating meat, they want more vegetables so the understanding of Chinese cuisines is important when you focus on the Chinese market,” he said.

It was further stated that the aspect of connectivity is key in promoting tourism where more direct flights from China will help boost the industry.