Leonard Ncube, Victoria Falls Reporter
ZIMBABWE needs robust strategies that can attract investors into the tourism sector which is under-invested in terms of infrastructure, a Cabinet Minister has said.
Environment, Climate, Tourism and Hospitality Industry Minister Nqobizitha Mangaliso Ndlovu said this during the Hospitality Association of Zimbabwe (HAZ) 2022 annual congress in Victoria Falls yesterday.
He said the recently availed US$7,5 million Tourism Revolving Fund will go a long way in promoting tourism investment in Zimbabwe.
He said the funding mechanism comes at an opportune time to support small to medium tourism enterprises which were greatly affected by Covid-19 to access funding, critical for their recovery and growth.
“In terms of tourism investment, we welcome the warming and growing interest in Zimbabwe’s tourism investment opportunities by international tourism brands, as this has a positive bearing on the competitiveness of the destination.
“Let me underscore that Zimbabwe is underinvested in vital tourism infrastructure such as hotels, convention centres, amusement parks and modern exhibition centres. It is therefore important to devise strategies that will attract this much needed investment into the tourism sector,” said Minister Ndlovu.
According to the Zimbabwe Tourism Authority’s Destination Zimbabwe’s Tourism Performance report for January to September 2022, players in the tourism sector spent a combined US$306,7 million on new investments in the nine months of the year.
On a more encouraging note, tourism is now on the rebound following the relaxation of Covid-19 restrictions, opening up of borders and resumption of international flights.
The Minister said there is growing interest in destination Zimbabwe by the source markets.
This can be attributed to robust marketing and promoting the diverse tourism product and the unwavering support of Government economic recovery initiatives as well as the robust engagement and re-engagement efforts by the Second Republic, he said.
Government came up with the National Tourism Recovery and Growth Strategy in 2020 with the aim of revitalising the sector towards achieving a US$5 billion industry by 2025.
Tourism is one of the sectors that were greatly affected by the outbreak of the Covid-19 which led to travel restrictions and lockdowns thereby causing loss of employment, revenue and closure of businesses.
“We therefore need your support in capturing accurate and correct statistics on tourism both at provincial and national levels in order to account for tourism contribution to the economy.
“Let us enhance our data collection systems, utilising the latest technologies to enhance our efficiency in this regard. Information sharing and timeous submission of updates remains critical for planning and informing policy making,” said Minister Ndlovu.
He challenged the industry to diversify the product base and to be actively involved in realisation of the US$5 billion tourism economy by 2025.
Matabeleland North Provincial Affairs and Devolution Minister Richard Moyo said the provincial economy is hinged on tourism and hospitality hence the need to invest in the sector.
HAZ has been in existence for over 70 years to deliver value to sector members.
The congress started on Wednesday and ends today under the theme: “Resetting hospitality for Tourism Success.”
HAZ president Mr Farai Chimba commended the Government for the rollout of a successful Covid-19 vaccination programme that enabled the reopening of the sector.
An aggressive vaccination programme against the Covid-19 pandemic that was spearheaded by President Mnangagwa who received his first jab in Victoria Falls, saw Victoria Falls achieving herd immunity.
He implored the Government to devise more intervention methods to bail out the tourism sector from the effects of Covid-19.
“We as a sector recognise we play a crucial role towards the US$5 billion industry and as a private sector we remain committed in complementing the national policies and growth programmes under NDS1. Infrastructure remains key in development of destination Zimbabwe, for both domestic and international tourism in key areas such as airports, access, road networks to destinations and infrastructure,” said Mr Chimba.
He expressed concern over some challenges such as poor state of roads, power outages, cost of fuel and renewable energy which are needed in the sector.
Mr Chimba said the country’s tourism looks set to benefit from various meetings, incentives, conferences and events (MICE) which he said would grow occupancy.
Tourism employed 99 141 in 2018 and numbers fell due to the pandemic and which requires a manpower development fund to capacitate training.
Mr Chimba said the industry was encouraged by setting up of the Tourism Satellite Account, 100 percent retention on foreign currency, Domestic VAT exemption and extension on duty waivers.
Multiplicity of licensing regimes and cost of fuel are some of the major challenges in the industry. — @ncubeleon