HARARE – South Korean ambassador to Zimbabwe Cho Jaichel has committed himself to marketing the country’s tourism products in the Asian global economic giant after being charmed by its beauty.
He said this after paying a courtesy call to the offices of the Associated Newspapers of Zimbabwe (ANZ) whose flagship publication, the Daily News he says was his favourite local daily.
He was hosted by ANZ managing director Sharon Samushonga, group editor-in-chief Hama Saburi and chief operating officer Jacob Chisese.
South Korea prides itself with a successful economy which has created a huge, versatile middle class and spurred the Far East nation’s outbound travel.
After falling out with its traditional western market largely over the southern African country’s chaotic land reform programme in 2000 and its tattered human rights record, Zimbabwe has been struggling to attract visitors, not only from the growing global tourism industry, but also from the lucrative Asian market.
According to latest statistics from the ITB World Travel Trends Report for 2016/17, which analyses current developments in global tourism source markets, South Korea contributed at least 20 million outbound tourists in 2016 alone.
Cho disclosed that according to official figures from his office, 20 000 Koreans visited Zimbabwe last year, which means Zimbabwe’s share of the Korean outbound tourism market stands at a paltry 0,038 percent.
“Zimbabwe has great tourist attractions such as the Great Zimbabwe, Nyanga and the Victoria Falls. I am promoting your country’s tourism products to Korea, I have a plan to introduce Korean people to Zimbabwe,” he said.
“I sincerely believe that Zimbabwe has great tourism potential. Every day, I say to people of my country you must see the Victoria Falls. Zimbabwe is beautiful everywhere. I saw the Great Zimbabwe on pictures before I came here, but I never thought the walls are that big. Now I have been there and I want to be there again,” he added.
Cho, who is fascinated by bridges, said Zimbabwe should do more to promote bridge tourism which is a hit in Asia and Europe.
“I am attracted most to the Victoria Falls bridge. I am in fact a bridge enthusiast and everywhere I go, I try to find good bridges to watch them. The Victoria Falls bridge is a very fascinating one and can attract tourists from every part of the world. I have sent pictures of it back to my country and they have fallen in love with it in a big way,” he said.
Besides the historical bridge upon which crucial talks were often held during the time of the liberation struggle, Zimbabwe has many more other iconic bridges like Birchenough Bridge — one of the most photographed man-made landmarks in the country — and the Beit Bridge.
The two bridges are built across the expansive widths of the great Save and Limpopo Rivers.
Cho, however, suggested that Zimbabwe needs to do a lot more to make its tourist destinations more popular and improve access.
“I think there is need to have more travel agents stationed in market countries who can advertise the tourism products of the country. You also need to improve on access to these resorts. For example, if you go to Korea, as soon as you land at the airport, you are spoilt for choice in terms of transport ranging from subways, boats and conventional buses. So you need improved systematic linkages so that the areas can be accessed more easily,” he said.
“You already have the distinct advantage of a constantly pleasant weather unlike in Asia where the weather is either too hot or too cold. Some of the Korean people that have visited Zimbabwe have told me of the warm hospitality by the kind and very good people. So I will be marketing your country on these and other basis,” he said.
Cho was posted as Korean ambassador to Zimbabwe in April last year and presented his diplomatic credentials to the then president Robert Mugabe in August.