By Byron Mutingwende
Finance minister Patrick Chinamasa has prescribed a cocktail of measures to revive tourism, which is a major foreign currency earner while officially opening the Sanganai/Hlanganai Tourism Expo in Bulawayo.
Chinamasa said tourism is an important sector in terms of its contribution to the key economic aggregates including national output, employment creation and generation of foreign currency hence the need for strategies to improve its performance.
“I highlighted in my 2016 economic performance review that tourism is a low-hanging fruit that has the potential to generate quick wins for the country. However, investment in destination marketing is required in order to unlock the huge potential in the country’s tourism sector,” Chinamasa said.
He said promoting tourism will help stimulate demand for locally produced products while at the same time empowering local communities. Further, the industry has the potential to generate much-needed foreign currency. However, leakages and lack of transparency in the accounting of the foreign currency earnings continue to undermine the country’s recovery efforts.
The finance minister said there was a need for collaborative efforts in the marketing of Zimbabwe as an attractive tourist destination. To do that, he called for an inventory of tourist assets including the marketing of the arts and culture as well as museums and national monuments. He called for ring-fencing of tourism assets like the Save Conservancy and encouraged the adoption of the open skies policy.
Chinamasa urged all the value-chain players in the tourism sector to play their role in facilitating the development of tourism in the country. He said staging the Sanganai/Hlanganani Tourism Expo demonstrates the importance of collaborating in promoting tourism. He alluded to several policies that the government is implementing in order to transform the sector.
The government is investing in supporting infrastructure. Currently the dualisation of the Beitbridge-Harare-Chirundu Highway has kicked off so as to improve the road network. To date, the government has rehabilitated 22, 000km of road network. The commissioning of the new Victoria Falls Airport by President Mugabe has started yielding positive results.
Fiscal incentives are being extended to tourism. The enactment of special economic zones corridor will be extended to include places like the Eastern Highlands and Gonarezhou Game Park. There are efforts to improve the immigration laws to advance economic diplomacy, create tourism development zones and improve budgetary support for destination marketing and promotion.
The government has since enacted the Special Economic Zones (SEZ) legislation, and the SEZ Board is now in place. In the area of tourism, the Victoria Falls-Hwange-Binga-Kariba-Mana Pools tourism corridor will be developed as a Special Tourism Economic Zone. Operators located within the Tourism Development Zones have also continued to benefit under Statutory Instrument (SI) 50 of 2006, which gives duty rebate on capital goods for registered tourism operators located within the Tourism Development Zones.
The Statutory Instrument has facilitated continuous improvement of the tourism products in the country. Operators are encouraged to take advantage of the opportunity to improve the quality of their products.
For some time now, the tourism sector has been enjoying duty rebates and exemption on selected capital goods.
Tourism and hospitality industry minister Walter Mzembi bemoaned the lack of support of his sector by Treasury and said it was unfortunate that his sector just got an mere 0, 1% of the total budget.
Chinamasa said he recognised the call by the sector for increased promotion and marketing budget. He pledged to offer financial support for players to embark on programmes and marketing initiatives including attending international conferences and exhibitions on tourism. The government has also supported international travel shows, the Harare international Carnival and Sanganai/Hlanganani.