GOVERNMENT has issued a moratorium to unregistered tour operators to register by April 1 this year, or face a “blitz” from the authorities.
BY TATIRA ZWINOIRA
This came as the sector experienced a 14,71% dip in foreign currency receipts to $151,16 million for 2017 from $177,21 million recorded in 2016.
Speaking to guests at a briefing on a $15 million Tourism facility from the central bank on Friday in Harare, Tourism and Hospitality Industry minister Priscah Mupfumira warned that unregistered tour operators would face swift action if they did not take advantage of the moratorium.
“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 competitions to genuine tourism operators and are 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,” she said.
Mupfumira also directed the Zimbabwe Tourism Authority, in conjunction with the relevant arms of the law, to undertake a blitz on all unregistered operators to restore order in the sector.
Tourism players have in the past complained that these unregistered players were cutting into their foreign currency generation potential.
The clampdown on unregistered players in the industry is one of the steps in Mupfumira’s six-step strategy in her 100-day plan, as per the directive from President Emmerson Mnangagwa instructing all Cabinet ministers to come up with strategies to deliver in their respective ministries.
Another step includes launching a domestic tourism campaign aiming at improving local tourism and developing a National Tourism Satellite Account. This account is a United Nations World Tourism Organisation prescribed tool for measuring the “true” contribution of tourism to the economy.
Mupfumira also said she would be launching an aggressive digital marketing campaign meant at increasing the visibility of Destination Zimbabwe online.
The six-step strategy also makes provision to improve the image of Zimbabwe as a tourist destination whilst improving tourism facilitation, whereby the ministry would push for the establishment of a National Tourism Facilitation Committee.
The purpose of the committee would be to deal with tourism matters especially in areas that involve other ministries and parastatals, as well as the players in the private sector.
Mupfumira said her ministry would be developing a National Tourism Sector Strategy aimed at establishing co-ordination of these steps and policies across sectors affecting tourism to enable growth.
“During the 100 days, my ministry will work closely with all stakeholders to accelerate the establishment of the Victoria Falls Special Economic Zone in order to attract investment and generate increased exports and the much-needed foreign currency,” she said.
Mupfumira said that she would be launching he six-step strategy in the coming few weeks, as preparations for implementation were already at an advanced stage.