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Conde Nast Traveller talks about Zimbabwe

We’re delighted to see an increasing number of positive articles on Zimbabwe in the UK media – the latest in the May issue of Conde Nast Traveller courtesy of Lisa Grainger, following an interview with John Berry in February.

Here’s an extract from John’s latest Zimbabwe update:

Zimbabwe was 80% of our business in 1999, we lost nearly all of that between April and November 2000. Thereafter and up until 2008 Zimbabwe represented less than 5% of our bookings.

Since 2009 when travel restrictions were lifted and despite a stalled recovery, our business to Zimbabwe trebled in 2010 and we expect it to do the same again with clients out of Australia, New Zealand, Europe and North America. We have seen a dramatic increase in enquiries from UK travellers for the 2011 season.

Questions remain…

Is it safe? Tourists are not threatened in Zimbabwe: People on safari are in capable hands in remote areas, where the biggest threat is sunburn.

Is there game left? Some areas have been heavily poached. But in all of the main safari spots where lodges and camps have regular visitors we find game conditions as good as they ever were a decade ago – that applies to Hwange, Matusadona and Mana Pools.

Are tourism dollars benefitting Mugabe? The government will be earning limited revenue from fuel duties and the like (about 10% of input costs for the average safari operation) but most of the cost is wages and food – that goes to local producers and staff! None of the operators are making profits – there’s little or no tax being recovered.

Finally, is it ethical? Tourists don’t contribute to Mugabe or the regime in any way. The absence of tourists simply denies conservationists, safari operations and the people of support. We’d much rather have people visit Zimbabwe, “the hottest ticket around” and return to tell their friends back home of the warm hospitality, smiling faces and outstanding safari experiences they’ve just had!