Mehluli Sibanda, Senior Sports Reporter

PRESIDENT Emmerson Mnagangwa on Tuesday officially launched a promotional campaign spearheaded by Zimbabwe Cricket (ZC) aimed at boosting the country’s tourism.

ZC are running with the project in partnership with the Zimbabwe Tourism Authority (ZTA).

The initiative, unveiled at a lively event held at the State House in Harare, is expected to leverage on the popularity of cricket which attracts millions of audiences across the globe to assist in making Zimbabwe a tourist destination of choice.

Zimbabwe national cricket teams, whether on the field of play, training or travelling, wearing shirts bearing the ‘Visit Zimbabwe’ branding on the sleeve. A promotional video for the campaign has been produced by ZC.

In his keynote address, President Mnangagwa put emphasis on the significance of tourism, adding that his Government welcomed initiatives such as the ‘Visit Zimbabwe’ strategy that were crucial to the recovery of the sector.

“The (tourism) sector has an important role to play in the attainment of our national Vision 2030 as it is one of the four pillars underpinning the growth of our economy alongside sectors like agriculture, mining and manufacturing,” he said.

President Mnangagwa said the arrival of the Covid-19 has negatively impacted the tourism sector.

“The advent of the Covid-19 pandemic has had a negative impact on our tourism sector. However, we are determined to resuscitate the sector to surpass our previous tourist arrivals and revenues within the shortest possible time,’’ the President said.

Fresh approaches are being adopted by the Government to market and promote the country’s tourism industry on a global scale.

“To this end, my Government continues to adopt new strategies to market and promote international tourism among our source markets.”

ZC chairman Tavengwa Mukuhlani said the ‘Visit Zimbabwe’ campaign was a perfect opportunity for the country to activate a winning sport-tourism combination.

“Cricket as a sport has not been spared by the effects of the Covid-19 pandemic. The tourism industry has also been one of the worst affected by the pandemic,’’ Mukuhlani said.

The ZC boss sport has the ability to bring with it economic and diplomatic prospects.

“I am sure all of us are particularly aware of the major cross-over between sport and tourism as well as the economic and diplomatic opportunities that sport can bring. We believe, of all sporting disciplines in our country, Zimbabwe Cricket has the broadest and widest international reach. Your Excellency, there is no one better placed to tell our story to the world than ourselves,’’ said Mukuhlani said.

Youth, Sport, Arts and Recreation Minister Kirsty Coventry praised the campaign as a brilliant initiative with potential to turn Zimbabwe into one of the world’s top tourist destinations.

“This partnership will allow us to proactively promote what we love about our country and it will allow us to engage with people from around the world to fully understand and get to know the country that we love and represent,” she said.

Environment, Climate Change, Tourism and Hospitality Industry Minister Mangaliso Ndlovu said: “We believe this way we will be able to reach out to more people and this will undoubtedly help to grow the tourism sector.”

The Zimbabwe senior men’s national cricket team could not attend the event as they are currently in a bio-secure bubble preparing to tour Pakistan.

They were however represented by other players who are not part of the travelling side, including the injured Kyle Jarvis, while Zimbabwe women’s captain Mary-Anne Musonda and some of her team-mates were also in attendance.

The ZC delegation, which included acting managing director Givemore Makoni and director of cricket Hamilton Masakadza, presented branded cricket shirts to President Mnangagwa and his deputies, Vice President Constantino Chiwenga and Vice President Kembo Mohadi, as well as to the Cabinet ministers who graced the event.