By Joyce Mukucha and Patricia Mashiri
The Zimbabwe Tourism Authority (ZTA) is in the process of shutting down all unlicensed and lapsed tourist facilities following one of the 100 day-initiatives by the Minister of Tourism and Hospitality Industry, Prisca Mupfumira.
The ultimatum was given by the then minister on the tourism stakeholder meeting on the Reserve Bank of Zimbabwe tourism support facility. It stated that all illegal operators should be registered by the 31st of March 2018 according to the Tourism Act.
“It is disheartening to note that there are a number of operators who are illegally operating and offering tourism services in contravention of the Tourism Act Chapter 14:20 of 1996.
“Such players are offering unfair competition to genuine tourism operators and defrauding government of revenue. I therefore wish to encourage and persuade all such unregistered operators to ensure they register their tourism businesses between now and the end of March 2018,” Mupfumira said.
Givemore Chidzidzi, the ZTA Chief Operating Officer said the tourism sector was following the law that all tourism operators must be registered. He pointed out that the tourist facilities needed to be standardised in order to invite tourists as well as positively portray the good image of the nation.
“Most of the hotels and lodges are operating informally and we do not encourage such kind of operations. Our aim is to protect the tourism industry. Therefore we need to make sure that proper standards are maintained.
“If we say Zimbabwe is open for business, it does not mean that we must allow anyone to operate anywhere without complying with the Tourism Act. Quality standards should be delivered to the customers, making sure that they do not get disappointed when they visit the places,” he said.
Chidzidzi stressed that if all these tourist facilities complied with the law, this would help in bringing in foreign currency to the country. He said more problems were emerging from smaller players who did not submit forms and pay levies that drive for utilisation of facilities.
Among those visited was Muchero Mudzonga, the owner of Earlside Hotel along Selous Avenue in the capital. Mudzonga was operating illegally and the hotel had poor standards. The room, toilets, bathrooms and kitchen showed that they were last renovated in the 1990’s. The facility is sub- standard and prone to diseases.
“Economic constraints are forcing me not to comply with the law. I have Zimbabwe Revenue Authority rates, electricity, water and employees among others to cater for. Currently, I have ten rooms which are working but they are not giving me enough to pay all the bills,” said Mudzonga.
Other designated tourist facilities that have been shut down include Pentagon Hotel in Ardebennie, Mbare and Palm Rock Villa Lodge located at 39 Selous Avenue. According to ZTA, 284 facilities have been identified in Harare and only 50% of them are registered. Nationally, the accommodation providers range between 500 and700. The premises are supposed to pay an amount of US$300 to operate for a whole year.