FINANCE minister Tendai Biti says the government will, through the Foreign Affairs ministry, engage friendly countries for visa realignment methods and agreements on flexible visa regimes so as to attract visitors into Zimbabwe.
BY OUR BUSINESS REPORTER
In his 2013 National Budget presented last week, Biti said in a highly competitive environment, stringent visa requirements were a stumbling block to the destination marketing drive.
“This will be complemented by upgrading of ICT (Information Communication Technology) that drives our visa systems,” he said.
Tourism has been identified in the Medium-Term Plan as one of the vital pillars for transforming the country’s economy and is expected to grow by 3,9% this year. Next year the sector is expected to grow by about 4% underpinned by the hotels and restaurants sector.
Biti said the successful hosting of the 20th Session of the United Nations World Tourism Organisation (UNWTO) General Assembly in 2013 should facilitate the showcasing of the country’s tourism products, facilities and infrastructure, spurring prospects for further growth.
The minister said taking advantage of the event was dependent on the country’s capacity to overcome negative perceptions in some of the major source markets, reinvestments in uplifting some of the “tired” tourism facilities and infrastructure.
He said there were a host of self-induced policy distortions and own goals that created some poison perceptions of Zimbabwe within and outside of the country, including conflict, hate speech and intolerance reflected in the media and perceptions of a police state.
“Resumption of regional and international flights by Air Zimbabwe, together with increased direct flights into the country by major international airlines, will also support the growth rebound.
“Furthermore, marketing and image building efforts by government and the ZTA (Zimbabwe Tourism Authority) is expected to continue to have a positive impact on the tourism sector as the new tourism brand, ‘Zimbabwe – A world of wonders’, becomes more established and known throughout the world,” he said.
Biti said bilateral tourism co-operation agreements were expected to increase the volume of tourists from the African continent, currently accounting for about 89% of the total arrivals into Zimbabwe.
Both the public and private sectors are key enablers of tourism according to Biti.
“Efforts being made to introduce new airlines that are servicing Zimbabwe are crucial, although much more is required to open up Zimbabwe skies to attract more airlines,” reads part of the Budget statement.