Despite the hardline stance which the United States of America has had on the administration of Zimbabwe President Emmerson Mnangagwa, a travel and tourism agency in the US has named the landlocked southern African country as the safest place to visit in the post-Covid19 epoch.

A former US Department of Defence and North Atlantic Treaty Organisation (Nato) security expert with years of experience on risk assessment worked with the travel agency, Tourlane, to come up with the guide that tourists use to make decisions on where to travel.

While Zimbabwe scored 35,48 out of a possible 50 points, Thailand came second with 35,33 points in the travel destination index, compiled by Tourlane.

Most countries have started to remove the travel restrictions as they adopt a new normal.

Zimbabwe opened the airspace earlier this month for international travellers but is yet to open other borders.

Tourlane assessed the security risks of a country in coming up with a guide for tourists.

According to the agency’s advisory: “In collaboration with our Head of Safety, Johann Jones, Tourlane has produced a guide to the safest places to travel once bans are lifted. By looking at key indicators such as Covid-19 cases, health regulations, population density, hours of sunlight, and flight connections to the USA, we produced a guide to help travellers assess risk factors of both countries that are currently open and countries that may open soon.”

Tourlane described Mr Jones as a former security officer in Afghanistan and Iraq, where he advised senior executives on risk factors and scenarios.

The positive ranking for Zimbabwe coincides with the country’s anti-sanctions drive at a time some citizens are on an offensive to demonise the country.

As of yesterday, Zimbabwe had 240 active Covid-19 cases and Government’s lockdown measures have been credited for relative containment of the virus.

Zimbabwe prides itself of various tourist destinations including the majestic Victoria Falls, Hwange National Park, Matopo Hills, Great Zimbabwe among numerous other attractions.

According to Godfrey Koti, the Zimbabwe Tourism Authority (ZTA) spokesperson, the endorsement by the Americans is what the country requires especially in light of the Tourism Recovery Strategy.

“This is a further attestation that things have really changed in the Second Republic and under the able leadership of our Minister Environment, Tourism and Hospitality Industry Honourable Nqobizitha Ndlovu, we have managed to create the right kind of noise in the international sphere. More so, in America who are our highest contributors into arrivals for the past 15 or so years. They have come to the country religiously as a resource market. Despite whatever other issues might be happening in the political spheres, they have recognised Zimbabwe as a destination that is safe, they have recognised Zimbabwe as a destination that they want to visit, a destination that they want to encourage their people to visit. We are very much elated,” he said.

Koti said Mnangagwa’s “amazing way” in handling the Covid19 pandemic is reason for the positive ratings by Tourlane.

“We would like to thank the Government of Zimbabwe and in particular His Excellency ED Mnangagwa on the amazing way the county handled Covid-19 pandemic. We are very grateful for their leadership in this difficult time that has crumbled the tourism sector. What is exciting about this kind of endorsement is that it fuels the international market into having more interest in Destination Zimbabwe. It also provides a platform for us to send a message about how beautiful Zimbabwe is as a destination”.

On the other hand, Zanu-PF Youth League deputy secretary for administration Mabutho Moyo said despite the negative politics on the country, Zimbabwe remains a beauty, which all Zimbabweans should market as tourism can transform the economic fortunes.

“It’s evident that since the ushering in of the Second Republic and the rise of His Excellency ED Mnangagwa, the world is beginning to warm up to Zimbabwe once again. The policy of re-engagement is definitely bearing fruits,” Moyo said.

“What is needed now is for Zimbabweans to start believing in their own country once again. Demonising one’s nation for political and monetary mileage is not only immature but it’s treasonous. The President has said that Zimbabwe is open for business, that should be the spirit that is carried by all Zimbabweans, at home and abroad.”

Zimbabwe Parks and Wildlife Management Authority (Zimparks) spokesperson Tinashe Farawo said it was not surprising that even international travel agencies have endorsed Zimbabwe.

Mnangagwa last week launched the Visit Zimbabwe Promotion Campaign, encouraging citizens and foreigners to visit some of the country’s tourist destinations.

“This is a confidence booster for the country. Remember the President launched the Tourism Recovery Strategy in Victoria Falls in September. This shows the commitment that the leadership has in terms of achieving the US$5 billion tourism economy by 2025. The fundamentals are there and what attracts people is there. We are not just saying foreigners should visit Zimbabwe but we are saying locals should tour Zimbabwe like what the President said. We are now adding to say Zimbabwe to build Zimbabwe,” Farawo said.

“The bottom line is Zimbabwe is beautiful, the fundamentals are right especially for us to achieve a US$5 billion tourism industry. We have everything that people may want to see. We have the Kariba Dam, Victoria Falls, Mana Pools, Matopos balancing rocks.”

State media