The Tourism Business Council of Zimbabwe (TBCZ) has raised concern over the deteriorating state of the roads in the country, warning that it can negatively affect domestic travel as the sector’s busiest season kicks off.
As the holiday season gets into full swing, local players are offering special promotions across the country’s top cdestinations to attract domestic tourists.
However, the state of the roads continues to deteriorate with the government currently working on fixing, extending, or widening several major highways.
The first quarter results for the year showed that tourism receipts were estimated to have risen by 38% to US$178, 1 million from the 2022 comparative due to the growth in domestic and international tourism.
In an interview with Standardbusiness, TBCZ president Wengayi Nhau said the state of the roads was a major challenge to local players.
“The issue of the road network is something of concern, especially to the people that drive around the country as the majority of domestic tourism players travel by road to save costs,” Nhau said.
“However, it is not all roads that are bad, but as we speak today our major challenge is on one or two major roads, the one between Harare and Chirundu, especially between Chinhoyi and Makuti.
“That stretch to the Chirundu border is not in a good condition. “The other road is between Victoria Falls and Bulawayo; certain sections are very bad especially around the Gwai area.”
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He said the sector had engaged the government on the issue of rehabilitation of roads.
“We have engaged the government through the Ministry of Transport and Infrastructural Development, and our Ministry of Tourism and Hospitality,” Nhau said.
“They have done a bit of work on some sections of the road between Victoria Falls and Bulawayo, which we appreciate but we still need a lot of work to be done.
“The government has managed to repair the subsections between Rusape and Nyanga that were very bad.
“Harare -Mutare is a good road. Harare -Masvingo-Beitbridge road is in a good condition and most sections of that road are in good condition.”
At least US$108, 49 million is needed to complete the Harare-Masvingo-Beitbridge highway, according to the Ministry of Transport and Infrastructural Development as 120 kilometres of the road is still left to be upgraded.
“Our hope is that the roads will be attended to as we have a commitment from the government as they do the roads in different phases,” Nhau said.
“So, we are looking forward to the other parts being attended to so that our road network will be in a safe and fair condition.”
Zimbabwe Tourism Authority spokesperson Godfrey Koti declined to comment on how the bad road network might affect efforts to boost domestic tourism.
During pre-budget submissions made by the Transport and Infrastructural Development minister Felix Mhona, it was revealed that heading into the 2024 fiscal year, the government department would be underfunded to the tune of $7,15 trillion.
The ministry made a bid for $7,89 trillion, but treasury only allocated it $739,6 billion.
“The minister of Finance and Economic Development should increase allocations for road infrastructure rehabilitation so that incomplete roads under ERRP (Emergency Road Rehabilitation Programme) 1 &2 are completed by August 2024,” Mhona said.
“The minister of Finance and Economic Development should disburse money owed to CMED by March 2024 for the works done under the ERRP so that it remains competitive in the road construction industry.”
He said treasury should urgently attend to the stabilisation and harmonisation of the exchange rate in order to reduce operating costs for road programs and projects.
“The minister of Transport and Infrastructural Development together with the minister of Finance and Economic Development should consider establishing the Road Accident Fund under the management of an empowered Traffic Safety Council of Zimbabwe by June 2024,” Mhona added.
“The minister of Transport and Infrastructural and Development should put strict conditions on the Road Accident Fund so that it is not overburdened.”
Domestic travel rose 79% to 12,3 million trips last year, from the 2021 comparative, which contributed significantly to the US$911 million total tourism receipts.