By Byron Mutingwende
The newly formed Team Tourism led by the Minister of Environment, Tourism and Hospitality Industry Honourable Priscah Mupfumira met with the Finance Minister Prof Mthuli Ncube and the Reserve Bank of Zimbabwe Governor Dr John Mangudya on Sunday afternoon to discuss a plethora of issues, chief among them the International Air Transport Association (IATA) repatriation debt.
Team Tourism a collaborative working group formally established on Friday evening got down to business barely 48 hours after its formation. The operational premise and strength of this team is a Shared Vision.
The idea was muted by the Zimbabwe Tourism Authority Chairman Osborne Majuru and his Chief Executive Dr Karikoga Kaseke. The backbone of the concept is that a sector like Tourism collaborates with its critical stakeholders who include Immigration, Civil Aviation Authority, Tourism Business Council, Zimbabwe Republic Police, Airlines Representatives, Zimbabwe Revenue Authority (ZIMRA), Safari operators amongst others.
In an interview with Spiked Online Media, Godfrey Koti, the ZTA Head of Corporate Affairs hailed the positive engagement between the government and private tourism sector players.
“As the ZTA, we welcome the fact that there is positive engagement between the government and the various players in the tourism sector, particularly this engagement with international airlines. It is warming and encouraging to note that the parties agreed on a debt repayment plan. Tis will surely lead to the revival of the aviation sector which is a critical cog in tourism,” Koti said.
Acie Lumumba, recently appointed to Treasury, by finance minister Mthuli Ncube recently alluded to the debt repayment issue in his latest update and revealed that people can now buy tickets using the RTGS payment system. The move has been welcomed by a large cross-section of Zimbabweans.
If Team Tourism operates under a shared vision its contribution towards the realisation of Vision 2030 becomes greatly significant than when these sectors operate in silos.
Sources close to the goings on said the team’s meeting with the Ministry of Finance and the RBZ discussed the IATA debt in great detail and a resolution to immediately address the skyrocketing repatriation debt was reached. A payment plan was agreed on and the Ministry of Finance through the RBZ would make significant monthly payment of US$4 million a month towards the $150 million dollar debt.
Winnie Muchanyuka, the President of the Airlines Board of Representatives said the meeting was long overdue and put a lot of operational issues into perspective for all the parties in attendance.
“We negotiated and came to an agreement on a payment plan. The airlines welcome the move as this will allay any projected from the airline operators. We are very confident that as soon as the payment plan sets in, we can continue with service delivery without any hindrances,” Muchanyuka said.
Emmanuel Fundira, the President of the SafariOperators said the development was a step in the right direction for the tourism sector.
“We would like to applaud government for a swift and quick response to the matter. This is a sign that they are committed to making things work efficiently. This is a positive warning shot as we prepare for the World Travel Market to be held in London in a few weeks’ time.
“It definitely inspires confidence in the market. I would hasten to say let us not only focus on reducing the debt but on reducing the causes as well,” Fundira added.