Zimbabwe has to relax its visa regime to attract Nigerian tourists and market the country as a destination for meetings, incentives, conferences and exhibitions (Mice), a tourism expert has said. Uloma Egbuna, managing director of Tour Brokers International, told participants at a Sanganai/Hlanganani market workshop that other competitors had relaxed their visa regime to lure Nigerians.
This has seen Nigerians travelling to Dubai and South Africa, where there are no hassles in getting visas.
“It is very important to look at the visa issue. Both countries have to begin to talk. I don’t understand why Nigerians cannot get visas on arrival into Zimbabwe,” she said.
Nigerians require 24 hours to get visas to fly to Dubai and six working days to get a South African visa.
Nigeria is in category C meaning that its nationals have to obtain a visa first before travelling to Zimbabwe. Nationals from countries in category A do not require a visa to travel to Zimbabwe. Nationals from countries in category B get visas on arrival.
Three years ago, a group of 520 Nigerians failed to get visas and ended up viewing the Victoria Falls from the Zambian side. They were supposed to view the falls from the Zimbabwean side.
“That was huge revenue Zimbabwe lost” Egbuna, whose company is a multi- award winning IATA approved tour operator, said.
Arrivals from Nigeria have been a drop in the ocean.
In 2016, tourist arrivals from Nigeria were 2 641 up from 502 in 2015.
Egbuna said Zimbabwe has not positioned itself as a Mice destination and has lost an opportunity to grow arrivals.
Zimbabwe, Egbuna said, had only marketed the Victoria Falls and safaris.
The tourism expert said it was important to make the environment more business friendly to lure Nigerian businessmen.
“The moment you see Nigerians investing in Zimbabwe, the more you see Nigerians coming to Zimbabwe,” she said.
In 2015, Africa’s richest businessman, Nigerian Aliko Dangote flew to Zimbabwe and said he would invest over $1 billion in cement production and power generation. The investments are yet to take off due to red tape and bureaucracy.
Zimbabwe has been aggressive in luring tourists.
Arrivals were 2,16 million last year from 2,06 million in 2015.
Zimbabwe has rolled out an ambitious plan to grow arrivals and generate more foreign currency for the economy.
Under the 5:5:2020 roadmap, the country aims to grow arrivals to $5 billion and get 5 million in arrivals by 2020.
However, Treasury has failed to adequately fund the Tourism ministry to undertake marketing initiatives due to competing needs.–newday