Tuesday, December 04, 2007

Visit Zimbabwe, where your dollar goes farther

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(Tip of the hat: Mangan's)

Continuing our series about Zimbabwe tourism, here's another reason to head for Zimbabwe.

Unlike in so many other countries, the U.S. dollar exchange rate is very favorable. Check this out:

The Zimbabwe dollar has crashed in recent days to a new all-time low of Z$4 million to the U.S. dollar as foreign exchange dealers on the country's bustling parallel currency market react to central bank warnings that new banknotes are soon to be issued.

Although the currency often experienced steep declines, the latest drop exceeded its predecessors in steepness and magnitude with the currency depreciating several fold in less than a week fueled by hyperinflation conservatively estimated at 15,000%.

Think on it! The instant you step off the plane and change money you will be a millionaire — or, if you fancy trying your hand at black market dealing, a billionaire! Experience the thrill of buying a newspaper for $4 million or spending a night in Harare's best hotel for $8 million.

President-for-All-Time Robert Mugabe's far-seeing administration is at the top of its game in taking advantage of the world's most favorable exchange rate for tourism promotion. He's got himself a cracker of a Minister of Environment and Tourism, Francis Nhema. Mr. Nhema sees great tourism potential in Zimbabwe, Land of Contrasts, although he admits that getting off to a good start is suffering from ignition trouble because of prejudicial news reports.

It is a fact that tourism in Zimbabwe, like any other economic sector, has been going through torrid times. Yes, one cannot separate this from politics, but I would not say that it is Zimbabwe's politics that has contributed heavily to the decline of tourist arrivals. Rather, it has been international politics and other factors at play.
Particularly promising is the "Look East Policy."
My ministry, working in conjunction with the Ministry of Transport and Communications and supported by the tourism industry, was instrumental in the introduction of direct flights to China by Air Zimbabwe. This followed the opening of our Tourist Office in Beijing and the signing of the ADS agreement with China in 2004.
The only problem with the Chinese sightseeing trade is that many Chinese, unaccustomed to the local cuisine (e.g., Thousand Year Ostrich Egg with mango-batwing purée) have experienced upset stomachs, popularly known as "Mugabe's Revenge." As a consequence, Chinese visitors now often pack their own meals to bring along for their stay. Mr. Nhema is not unduly concerned:
It is natural for people when they travel to strange and exotic lands that they carry some of their own food. But can one really carry food to last them for the whole duration of their visit especially if it is a long haul destination? And, by the way, tourist class on airlines only permit 20kg.
Zim isn't, perhaps, a first vacation choice for everyone. But for those who seek adventure combined with the experience of spending billions per day, it could be the answer. Especially if, as rumor has it, a currency devaluation is announced next week.

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