By Byron Mutingwende
There is need for a paradigm shift in the approach of doing business within tourism since the sector has great potential to revive the economy.
In her address at the briefing meeting with stakeholders on the Reserve Bank of Zimbabwe Support facility, Prisca Mupfumira the minister of tourism and hospitality industry was a key economic sector that has the potential to contribute towards economic growth if people changed their ways of doing business.
“In Zimbabwe the tourism sector is an acknowledged economic pillar that has registered significant growth from being a mere $200 million economy in 2009 to an estimated billion dollar industry that it is today. Equally, the volume of tourism traffic into Zimbabwe has improved from 1.7 million in 2012 to 2.1 million in 2016, and by the end of 2018 we are positive that we will receive 2.5 million tourist arrivals,” Mupfumira said.
However the efforts towards reaping the economic in the sector dividends were being hampered by wrong business choices. Mupfumira blamed unlicensed operators whom if registered, would pay taxes and raise revenue to improve the economy.
“All unregistered operators will face the law from the woman selling her crotchet ware by the roadside to the biggest owner. I have tasked my parastatal to start a blitz against unregistered operators,” Mupfumira said.
The minister said one way to improve the sector was to promote domestic tourism. She gave an analogy of the situation in Victoria Falls where by residents from the nearby Chinotimba residential area have not seen the falls in their lives due to the exorbitant fee of $7 charged to view them as one of the impediments to domestic tourism.
The local hotels were also criticised for charging high booking fees, a situation that results in tourists opting to go and book in nearby resort towns like Livingstone in Zambia after viewing the falls from Zimbabwe. In addition, the standards in the hotels and lodges were said to be poor despite the high costs.
Another participant said there was a need to expedite the processes at immigration centres and by increasing the number of serving points so that tourists will have a better experience when visiting the country.
John Mangudya, the Governor of the Reserve Bank of Zimbabwe (RBZ) challenged the tourism sector to increase its production of services so as to increase the earning of foreign currency.
“Let’s export as much as possible. The bedrock of money is production. If there is no production, then there is no money. We need to produce more. We need a strategy to increase exports and by so doing the economy goes up. Exporting of tourism services is a stimulator of economic growth,” Mangudya said.
He added that the tourism sector is an important source of foreign currency for the country. It exports tourism services to visitors through non-consumptive tourism (hotels and accommodation) and consumptive tourism (hunting and food).
Mangudya said foreign currency generation has increased from US$51 million in 2009 to US$177 million in 2016. Preliminary figures for 2017 indicate that the sector generated US$151 million, which is about 5% of merchandise exports or 2.7% of total foreign exchange received by the country in 2017. The country earned total foreign exchange receipts of US$5.5billion in 2017, an increase of $158 million from the US$5.3billon in 2016.
The sector falls under the large group classified under distribution, hotels and restaurants which accounts for 11% of GDP.
The Governor said the sector should aim to contribute around 10% of foreign exchange receipts by year end.
The Reserve Bank put in place a number of productive sector facilities to promote production, productivity and exports as well as facilities focussing on financial inclusion for empowering various specific groups like women, youth and people with disabilities.
“The rationale to create these facilities is to enhance productivity and exports across all the sectors of the economy. The bedrock of money is production. The stability of any currency throughout the world is anchored or dependent on production of goods and services and on consumer and business sentiment – confidence,” Mangudya said.
Mupfumira said the ministry has identified several projects and programmes for implementation under the 100-days Targeted Performance Programme initiated by President Mnangagwa.
Chief among the programmes is the development of a national tourism strategy. Whilst tourism plays a major role in the economic wellbeing of Zimbabwe, there is often no co-ordination of policies across sectors to enable tourism growth. Tourism growth is hampered by limited international air access, inadequate internal airline connectivity, poor state of roads in tourism resorts and a non-competitive tourism product that is not only overpriced but old and tired.
The main objective of the National Tourism Sector Strategy is to harness and coordinate all efforts for holistic Tourism Development in Zimbabwe; and ensure a shared vision for tourism development.
The domestic tourism campaign is aimed at making tourism accessible to locals through intensified awareness of what the country has to offer. Under this program,me the Ten Publicity Associations run by local authorities countrywide will be rebranded into Tourism Information Centres.
“My Ministry through the Zimbabwe Tourism Authority will provide them with Grants to fund Regional Marketing Plans. We will also work closely with the Ministry of Local Government, Public Works and National Housing in conducting training to ensure these Publicity Associations are well capacitated to promote Tourism development.”
The Ministry will push for the establishment of a National Tourism Facilitation Committee under the programme to promote the image of Zimbabwe, whose main aim will be to deal with impediments to travel.
There are efforts to develop a National Tourism Satellite Account, which is a United Nations World Tourism Organisation (UNWTO) prescribed tool for measuring the contribution of tourism to the economy.
“In this regard, having completed the International Visitor Exit Survey in 2016, we have embarked on the Domestic and Outbound Tourism Survey. As I speak, teams are out in the province to carry out this extended household survey, which kicked off on the 27th of December 2017 and will run until the 10TH of February 2018. After completion of this survey we will be in a position to ensure the completion of Zimbabwe’s first ever Tourism Satellite Account. We will also launch an aggressive Digital Marketing Campaign. The main objective of the Digital Marketing Campaign will be to increase the visibility of Destination Zimbabwe online,” Mupfumira said.