HARARE, Jan. 7 — The Dutch government has partnered Zimbabwe in developing its tourism industry as part of wider efforts by the European Union (EU) to re-engage Zimbabwe after a decade of frosty relations.
At a joint press conference with Zimbabwean Tourism Minister Wednesday, the Dutch Embassy unveiled an 87,000-euro fund to help Zimbabwe market itself in the Netherlands and the EU.
Dutch ambassador to Zimbabwe, Zambia and Malawi Gera Sneller expressed her government’s commitment to helping Zimbabwe develop its tourism sector through aggressively marketing itself in the EU, the country’s major tourist source market.
After sponsoring Zimbabwe to participate in the International Travel and Tourism Market in Britain last year, the ambassador said the Dutch Embassy will again this year sponsor Zimbabwe to participate at the eight-day Vakantiebeurs Holiday show in the Netherlands this month.
She said the gesture was aimed at helping Zimbabwe to market itself to Netherlands and Europe whose tourists to Zimbabwe had declined by 14 percent since 1999.
“Vakantiebeurs is one of the biggest holiday fairs in the Netherlands and we felt that it will be important for Zimbabwe to showcase itself and what it has to offer at the fair,” said the ambassador.
She said a thriving tourism sector would provide impetus for economic revival in Zimbabwe.
Tourism Minister Walter Mzembi thanked Netherlands for the support, saying it will enhance the country’s marketing drive in the key source market and that it marked the beginning of strong and sustainable bilateral relations between the two countries.
“This augurs well with our re-engagements efforts with members of the European Union,” the minister said.
He said the gesture also comes at an opportune time for Zimbabwe to regain its lost market share in the Benelux and European markets.
Despite arrivals falling from 40,000 in 1999 to the current 14, 000, the Benelux (Belgium, Netherlands and Luxembourg) constitute a major tourist market for Zimbabwe and currently contributes 9 percent of all arrivals from Europe and is the fourth largest contributor of arrivals from Europe after the United Kingdom, Germany and France.
The Vakantiebeurs Holiday fair will run in the Netherlands from Jan. 11 to 18 followed by road shows in that country and Brussels until Jan. 24.
The minister, meanwhile, said Zimbabwe will this year begin to seriously focus on making itself a competitive tourist destination so that it can realize its dream of a 5 billion U.S. dollar tourism economy by 2020.
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