TOURISM operators in Zimbabwe have been urged to work towards a vision of turning tourism into a $5 billion industry by 2020.
President of the Zimbabwe Council for Tourism, Francis Ngwenya, last Friday said the launch of KAZA Univisa and with upcoming completion of the Victoria Falls International Airport, tourism would be able to generate more revenue with new players joining the industry and creating employment in the process.
“Moving the industry from $780 million, which tourism generated last year to $5 billion is a big vision,” Ngwenya said.
“If you look at the budget which was presented, it is not even $5 billion for the whole country. However, when you see that investments going into the runway at the airport and this new univisa, it shows that the government is serious and there is hope to make our vision a reality.”
Ngwenya said tourism players were working hard to ensure the growth of the sector, with some hotels increasing the number of their rooms.
“For us to be able to say tourism is a $5 billion industry, two things have to happen. Firstly, the capacity that we have now should be filled up and operating at full cost; secondly we need to increase the capacity that we have.
“Now with the international airport under construction, the size of aircraft that are going to be coming in will increase and we need to double or triple the number of rooms in the Livingstone-Victoria Falls area.”
Ngwenya said it was important for the government to create a conducive environment so that new players will be able to join the industry.
“Concessionary loans that the government has allowed are a step forward in the right direction as tourism actors will now be able to access foreign investment,” he said.
“This year the projection and the wish is for us to go over the $1 billion mark, but this Ebola scare has affected us in the last quarter, as tourists are afraid to come to Africa, but besides that we should be able to contribute more than what we contributed last year. The budget actually projected a growth of 4,5% in terms of revenue contribution by tourism.”
The KAZA Univisa between Zimbabwe and Zambia, which costs $50, was launched last Friday. It allows tourists, who pay for the visa to move freely without acquiring a new one in either Zimbabwe or Zambia for 30 days.
President of Employers’ Association for Tours and Safari Operators of the Leisure Tourism Industry, Clement Mukwasi, said the launch of the KAZA Univisa was a positive development, which will create more job opportunities as it will increase the number of tourists visiting Zimbabwe and Zambia.
“We hope that this does not end with univisa only, but they should also introduce single work permits for professions that are tourism related like tour guides and interpreters that will enable them to work in more than one country,” he said.