By Byron Mutingwende
Tourism and Hospitality Industry minister, Walter Mzembi has rallied his government partners and the private players to speak with one voice in facilitating the growth of the sector which has become the engine for economic growth.
Mzembi made the remarks in Harare on Wednesday during the launch of the 2017 United Nations Conference on Trade and Development (UNCTAD) Economic Development in Africa Report 2017 which focuses on ‘Tourism for transformative and inclusive growth’ and encourages African countries to harness the dynamism of the tourism sector.
“African tourists are emerging as the powerhouse for tourism on the continent. However, in Zimbabwe, there is need for other sectors in government to facilitate the growth of tourism through the implementation of policies that support the growth of the sector,” Mzembi said.
According to the report, four out of 10 international tourists in Africa come from the continent itself. In sub-Saharan Africa, this number increases to two out of every three tourists whose travels originate on the continent. Data backing this key finding show that, contrary to perception, Africans themselves are increasingly driving tourism demand in Africa.
Mzembi however, feels that tourism has not been getting the necessary fiscal support to grow it in line with his vision.
“Tourism has been getting less than 1% of the total national budget allocation. Despite that, I have managed to grow it into a $1 billion economy. If the ministry of tourism gets at least 1 percent of the total budget, I have potential to grow it into a $5 billion economy within a few years,” Mzembi said.
He called for an improvement in the way of doing business at the international airports and border posts where tourists are often delayed in winding queues at the checkpoints, a situation that drives them away and disturbs repeat visits. Coupled with this, is the high presence of the police on the country’s highways that have caused almost 5% of some cross-section of the tourists to shun the country.
Tourism in Africa is a flourishing industry that supports more than 21 million jobs on the continent. Over the last two decades, Africa has recorded robust growth, with international tourist arrivals and tourism revenues growing at 6 percent and 9 percent, respectively, each year between 1995 and 2014.
Dr. Thomas Chataghalala Munthali, Director of Knowledge and Learning at the African Capacity Building Foundation said tourism is an important contributor to the African economy.
“In Africa, tourism’s total contribution to the GDP is increasing (from 6, 8% in 1995-1998 to 8, 5% in 2011-2014) but it is still below the global average. The sector has attracted capital investment of US$26 billion on average in 2011-2014 (1,8% of GDP). Thus tourism is a key driver of growth in different countries, but particularly in African small-island developing states,” Munthali said.
He added that in Africa, tourism generated over 21 million jobs, on average in 2011-2014, or about 1 out of 14 jobs. Interestingly, Munthali said that 47% of hotel and restaurant sector employees are women.
According to the International Labour Organisation, in countries where tourism is dominant, the vulnerable employment rate is lower. Globally, 50% of the tourism labour force is aged 25 or younger. In that regard, tourism contributes to the demographic dividend through providing opportunities for youth. It is a sector where women can thrive. Women run more than 30% of tourism businesses, and 36% of tourism ministers are women, making it a sector that fosters inclusivity.
Munthali reiterated the need to strengthen inter-sectoral linkages to foster structural transformation through tourism; tap into the potential of intra-African tourism; promote the capacity of tourism to foster inclusiveness; and use the mutual beneficial relationship between tourism and peace.
On the other hand, the First Ten-Year Implementation Plan of the African Union’s Agenda 2063 aims at doubling the contribution of tourism to the continent’s GDP. To meet this target tourism needs to grow at a faster and stronger pace.