Farirai Machivenyika Senior Reporter—
Acting President Emmerson Mnangagwa yesterday urged the ministries of Tourism and Hospitality Industry and Home of Affairs to strike a balance between public safety and the convenience of tourists in the wake of complaints of harassment at roadblocks. Cde Mnangagwa said this in Harare yesterday at the launch of the International Year of Sustainable Tourism for Development.
“I am aware that the issue of roadblocks has been raised by a number of tourists. As Government, we remain committed to the free movement of tourists and the need to ensure their safety,” said Cde Mnangagwa.
“I therefore urge the two ministries of Home Affairs and Tourism and Hospitality Industry to sit down together under one roof and further determine how the need for safety and movement of tourists can be guaranteed.
“In the same vein, I also want to commend the ZRP, the visiting public and tourists especially in the Victoria Falls area, for their cooperation,” he said.
In a Visitor Exit survey covering a 12-month period between 2015 and November 2016, 43,2 percent of tourists who said they would not visit Zimbabwe again, cited harassment by police among the reasons why they would not recommend the country as a destination to potential visitors.
Home Affairs Minister Dr Ignatius Chombo said the police would reduce the number of roadblocks by setting them between radius of 10km.
He said roadblocks were important for public safety and to curb crime.
There have however been many complaints that two many roadblocks cause unnecessary delays to travellers, especially tourists who bring in foreign currency.
Acting President Mnangagwa said this year’s declaration was in line with the Zim Asset economic blueprint.
“This year’s declaration reverberates well with our Zim Asset blueprint under the value addition and beneficiation cluster where we seek to promote tourism products and diversification through the revival of community-based tourism enterprises, implementation and training programmes for communities through sustainable tourism eliminating poverty, as well as benchmarking products and opening visitors’ bureaus (foreign tourism offices),” he said.
He said Zimbabwe had a lot of tourism products with an unlimited potential for value addition, diversification and employment opportunities in different sectors such as accommodation, transportation, catering, and travel and tour services.
Acting President Mnangagwa said Zimbabwe received 2 167 686 tourists, earning $819 million and contributing in the process 10,9 percent to the GDP, 4,3 to capital investment and 7,3 percent to employment.
“On the continent, the decision to designate 2017 as the International Year of Sustainable Tourism Development resonates well with Agenda 2063 which encapsulates promotion of trade in services like travel and tourism and services in the hospitality industry. Locally therefore I urge the Ministry of Tourism and Hospitality Industry and stakeholders in the sector to embrace and aggressively market unique Zimbabwean cuisine and traditional foods,” he said.
“Unique cultural, religious and village and community-based tourism products need to be used as tools to attract and guarantee repeat visits by tourists.”
The acting President said Zimbabwe recognised the need for sustainable tourism in development and was engaging in various initiatives that include a comprehensive clean-up campaign to encourage behavioural change on littering, running a schools’ quiz show on sustainable tourism and a sustainable tourism symposium, among others.
This year’s celebrations are being held under the theme “Travel, Enjoy and Respect”.
Meanwhile, Acting President Mnangagwa commended Tourism and Hospitality Industry Minister Dr Walter Mzembi for marketing the country during his campaign for the United Nations World Tourism Organisation Secretary General’s post.
“On behalf of His Excellency the President and Commander in Chief of the Zimbabwe Defence Forces Cde Mugabe, and indeed on my own behalf, I want to take the opportunity to thank him for a sterling job of putting the ‘Brand Zimbabwe’ on the international platform although he couldn’t garner the votes needed to secure the post,” he said.
Dr Mzembi narrowly lost by 3 votes in the second round of voting to Georgia’s Mr Zurab Pololikashvilli.