The Government is developing a tourism Master Plan expected to drive the growth and success of the sector in the next two decades, an official has said. The sector is already one of the top four driving the Zimbabwean economy with its current vision being to grow the number of visitors coming into the country to 5 million and earning $5 billion by the year 2020.
Tourism and Hospitality Industry Minister Engineer Walter Mzembi said the Master Plan, being developed with the assistance of a Rome based consultancy firm, Keios, would be completed by mid-year.
“We are finishing it by June/July this year,” Minister Mzembi told stakeholders at a meeting to raise awareness on development of the plan. He said the plan should give the country direction on how to fully exploit its natural resources and tourism sites for the benefit of the economy.
“I do not want this Master Plan to be fraught with hurdles that will not make it implementable, practical and real,” Minister Mzembi said.
Keios lead consultant, Mr Peter Nizette said the Master Plan would assist Zimbabwe get back to its former position as one of the leading destinations for foreign tourists in Africa.
“Zimbabwe does not have a tourism Master Plan because it did not need one (in the past),” he said.
Over the past two decades the country’s image has however been battered owing to hostile international media coverage received largely as a result of political differences with the Western world.
But the resilient tourism sector has continued to defy odds and on average attracts one million tourists annually.
Mr Nizette said the plan, which would provide direction in terms of tourism product development and diversification, would be an output of stakeholder contribution.
“Yes, the Victoria Falls is important but it cannot always be about Victoria Falls,” said Niezette pointing out the importance of marketing other strategic sites in the country.
“Diversification creates a future for people in other outlying as well as rural areas,” he said.
“Young people (in rural areas) will not see the need to move to towns (to look for jobs) and end up in the streets.
A nine-member team made up of three international experts and six Zimbabwean strategists has been set up to lead development of the plan.
Mr Nizette said the plan would also tackle other key issues necessary for the tourism sector’s success such as infrastructure and manpower development, community participation as well as preservation of nature, culture and heritage. — New Ziana.