Leonard Ncube Victoria Falls Reporter
THE government should consider reducing charges for accommodation and leisure activities for locals as a way of boosting domestic tourism, a Cabinet Minister has said.
Acting Tourism and Hospitality Industry Minister Prisca Mupfumira last week said the government was aware of exorbitant prices charged for tourism activities.
She said there was a need to make them affordable to locals.
Minister Mupfumira, whose substantive portfolio is Public Service, Labour and Social Welfare, was in Victoria Falls for the whole of last week officiating at the International Labour Organisation (ILO) retreat and Zimbabwe Energy Workers’ Union (ZEWU) congress.
She had a chance to sample a number of activities and interact with locals who expressed concern at the high charges.
The minister said the rates such as $7 per individual to enter the Rainforest, $5 to visit the Crocodile Farm, close to $200 for each activity in respect of bungee jumping, white water rafting, helicopter flight and lion and elephant walk were unaffordable to locals thereby dealing a blow to domestic tourism.
“Maybe we’re not doing much in terms of promoting domestic tourism. One area which needs to be looked at is fees as what’s being charged might be prohibitive to locals,” she said.
Minister Mupfumira called for packages specifically for locals who cannot afford to visit resort areas they live adjacent to.
“Maybe we should come up with packages especially during school holidays where teachers and kids can visit resort areas at reasonable prices.
“If you look around here most of the people you see on the streets are foreign tourists yet our resorts must be part of our lives. We should cherish these areas and as such we need to encourage locals to visit and know them so they become our ambassadors. This can only happen if they’re affordable to them,” she said.
Minister Mupfumira said there was a need even to review accommodation rates.
“Even our hotels rates are too high. We need to look at the fees structure and have packages for locals,” she added.
Accommodation ranges from $60 for lodges per room with some charging $140 while some hotels charge as high as $250 per room.
Over the years domestic tourists visiting the resort town of Victoria Falls have accused the tourism industry of overpricing its products and called for dual pricing in all areas to cater for locals and boost domestic tourism.
Players have also defended themselves saying the prices are in tandem with multiple licensing fees charged by Environmental Management Agency, the Civil Aviation Authority of Zimbabwe, Zimbabwe Parks and Wildlife Management Authority (ZPWMA), Zimbabwe Tourism Authority, Zimbabwe Revenue Authority, Zimbabwe National Water Authority and Zesa.
At the Victoria Falls Rainforest, the ZPWMA charges locals $7, regional tourists pay $20 while international tourists are forking out $30.
Most of the activities cost more than $100.
In 2014, the Ministry of Tourism and Hospitality Industry launched a domestic tourism campaign aimed at enhancing communities’ participation in the sector and creating wealth for ordinary people.
The campaign was meant to see communities and locals benefiting extensively from the revival of the monuments that would be upgraded to tourist resort sites where affordable rates would be charged.
Nothing significant has been implemented.
Some players have also introduced online auction platforms at affordable rates to domestic tourists but the systems are not supported at policy level.
Tourism is one of the key economic drivers in Zimbabwe contributing around 10 percent of Gross Domestic Product (GDP) and is one of the four pillars of the economy alongside agriculture, mining and manufacturing.