Zimbabwe on Wednesday received two tourism awards from the European Council on Tourism and Trade (ECTT) at a ceremony in the capital where President Robert Mugabe said the country is a safe destination for visitors.
Speaking at the ceremony, President Mugabe said the country’s detractors are bent on tarnishing the image of the country, adding that Zimbabwe is a peaceful country.
The president’s remarks follow a decline in tourist arrivals in the country since 2000. Tourist receipts have, however, been steadily increasing, especially with the recent endorsement of the country as the best cultural and tourism destination by this organization.
President of the ECTT, Professor John Caragea, said tourism can be used as a tool to promote peace.
Zimbabwe’s Tourism Minister, Walter Mzembi, added that the country is usually vilified for its fast-track land reform program that displaced thousands of white commercial farmers and their workers from their properties.
Economists say the land grabs contributed immensely to the country’s economic meltdown.
Mr. Mugabe said his government will do all it can to ensure that Zimbabwe becomes the world’s tourist destination of choice.
The president said Zimbabwe has several tourist attractions and urged the tourism ministry to promote domestic tourism.
Tourism was one of the country’s major economic drivers before the country recorded a huge deep in tourist arrivals following the violent land reforms and disputed elections.
The ceremony to give Zimbabwe the two awards proceeded in the capital despite the European Union’s representative in Harare, Aldo Dell'Ariccia, saying the ECTT does not represent the EU.
Dell'Ariccia said the outfit presenting the awards to President Mugabe on Wednesday has nothing to do with the EU’s official trade and tourism arm.
The ECCT is a private Bucharest, Romania-based organisation with interest in tourism and gives awards to countries annually.
According to its website, it draws together tourism-related organisations from 27 European countries.
Caragea met Vice President Joice Mujuru on Monday and said his organisation was a non-governmental organisation, adding they had come to Zimbabwe sorely to praise the culture of Zimbabwe, its tourism legacy and to promote the tourism in the country.
Established in 2005, the ECCT has also given its top tourism award to Syria, Turkey, the United Arab Emirates, South Korea, Laos, Trinidad and Tobago, and now Zimbabwe.