Feature: Chinese artist helps Zimbabwe attract tourists through music



Liu Bing (Ice Liu), was a teenager when she moved from China to Zimbabwe, a country she has proudly called home for years.

As someone who is fascinated by different cultures and environments, she immediately fell in love with her new home.

"The atmosphere here is relaxed," she told Xinhua in an interview. "I had many chances to go to other countries, but I like Zimbabwe, and I am here."

She was invited to work on an international collaborative music video project called Lovely Zimbabwe with a group of artist from different parts of the world.

The ten-member group, which is made up of foreign artists singing about the beauty of Zimbabwe in their native languages, aims at marketing Zimbabwe one of the best places to visit.

The artists' colorful performance is complemented by magnificent scenery in the music video's background that makes Zimbabwe a stunning tourist destination.

The tourism sector is one of Zimbabwe's major economic mainstays, contributing significantly to the country's GDP. About 2.6 million international tourists visited the Southern African country in 2018.

The expenditure by tourists in Zimbabwe has also risen remarkably over the past decade, rising from only 523 million U.S. dollars in 2009 to over 1 billion U.S. dollars in 2019.

The country's most remarkable products are its abundant animal species and natural environment, a number of medieval era city ruins and multiple world heritage sites, several national parks and its friendly people.

Liu was disappointed as the tourism industry in Zimbabwe has been severely influenced by the COVID-19 pandemic.

The tourism industry is one of the sectors in Zimbabwe bearing the brunt of COVID-19.

But the tourists are coming back and the industry is recovering. On May and June, Zambia and Zimbabwe re-opened the Victoria Falls to the public, two months after closing the World Heritage Site due to the pandemic.

"Come to Zimbabwe, that is what we are writing in the song, come to Zimbabwe, yes, come to Zimbabwe, Zimbabwe is a very cool place," said Liu.

She said the song is expected to add value to the ongoing government efforts in presenting Zimbabwe as a unique tourist destination and to motivate more Chinese tourists to visit the country.

"We need more people to come to visit, to invest in Zimbabwe. We need to show the world how nice Zimbabwe is," she said .

Liu said she wants to continue promoting arts and culture between China and Zimbabwe through various initiatives such as the Dreamstar Zimbabwe Talent Search, a program that sponsors artists to tour China through cultural exchange programs.

Abraham Matuka, founder of the Lovely Zimbabwe project, said music can be instrumental in popularizing tourist destinations and can significantly boost tourist numbers.

Matuka said besides marketing Zimbabwe as a prime tourist destination, the song also promotes cultural understanding among nations.

"By singing in Mandarin, she would be appealing to the whole Chinese people and most of the people who understand Mandarin would know that Zimbabwe is a beautiful country. Music is one of the best tools in terms of communication. It's universal. So we use the aspect of people to people diplomacy through music," said Matuka.

Over the years, Zimbabwe has embarked on various strategies to ensure sustainable long-term growth of the tourism sector, including duty exemptions for the importation of tourism capital goods and safari vehicles, promoting investment in tourism-related infrastructure and adopting favorable visa policies.

In 2018, a major marketing campaign was signed between the Ministry of Tourism and a Chinese firm Touchroad International which brought Zhejiang TV and Radio into the country to film Zimbabwe's key tourist attractions.

While Chinese outbound tourism has increased rapidly over the years, reaching 149 million overseas trips in 2018, only a few Chinese tourists choose Zimbabwe as their travel destination.

Zimbabwe received about 19,000 Chinese tourists in 2018, and the country has set a target to receive at least 150,000 Chinese tourists by 2025.