TOURISM and Hospitality Industry minister Walter Mzembi has called for urgent policy reviews in order to stimulate the tourism sector and Zimbabwe’s economy.
Speaking at the launch of the National Tourism Policy (NTP) at Celebration Centre in the capital yesterday, Mzembi called on government to implement policies as failure to do so would translate to mere dreams.
“Policy launches will remain a mere dream without correcting the ‘mischief’ of implementation,” he said.
“We just need policy reviews to increase international flights into Zimbabwe. We need to return to the 1999 levels where there were 48 international carriers landing at Harare International Airport.”
His calls come at a time when international investors have adopted a wait-and-see approach owing to the lack of policy consistency in government announcements, a scenario which has led to the worsening economic situation in the country.
Mzembi acknowledged that the national tourism policy was launched in the context of widespread concern over the economy’s performance pointing out that the population remained engulfed in pessimism.
“What pains me most is that Rhodesia, which was then under sanctions, and apartheid South Africa had a closer relationship than then current black governments run by the ANC and Zanu PF. We need sanctions-busting visits by the South Africans to help a sisterly nation in need,” he told delegates.
He said the two problematic issues were currently destination accessibility and visa facilitation adding that this logic should apply to Brics (Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa) nations as part of the tourism sector’s growth strategy.
“At our peak in 1999, Zimbabwe used to receive 27% of international arrivals from America and Europe. But now we are down to 13% of these high expenditure and source markets, we need to revive brand Zimbabwe,” he said adding that there was a need to do away with political rhetoric and self-hate speech.
According to the 2013 Visa Openness Index Zimbabwe ranked at between 11% to 23% as compared to the Sadc region’s figures of 24 to 39%.
The NTP posits that tourism is one of the key economic drivers in Zimbabwe currently contributing 10% to gross domestic product (GDP).
The sector is expected to contribute 15% to GDP, generate over $1,8 billion in foreign currency receipts from the current $749 million and to increase tourist arrivals from 2,5 million to 3,2 million by 2015.
“We need to establish why South African tourists are not coming to Zimbabwe as much as they used to, is it lack of a tourist visa, a poor product offering or brand perception? What are we not doing as Zimbabwe?” he told delegates.
Speaking at the same function Tourism and Hospitality Industry permanent secretary Florence Nhekairo said the policy launch was a game changer in the tourism industry.
She said that tourism sector recorded a positive growth trajectory with 6,1% growth recorded in 2009 to 10% in 2013.
“There is need to anchor on a sound policy framework, the policy presents a clear window of opportunity for us to reposition ourselves for growth. We need to implement the cocktail of prescriptions contained in the tourism policy,” she said.
Vice-President Joice Mujuru launched the policy document and reaffirmed government’s commitment towards ensuring that the document would become a reality in the broader context of government’s economic blueprint, the Zimbabwe Agenda for Sustainable Socio-Economic Transformation.
Celebration Centre, run by Pastor Tom Deuschle was declared a tourism facility at the same event in line with the Tourism Act Chapter 14:20.