Oliver Kazunga Bulawayo Bureau
THE prevailing fuel shortages and prolonged power cuts have become the major bottlenecks crippling the growth of the tourism industry.
Tourism industry players who attended last week’s Sanganai/Hlanganani Expo in Bulawayo, complained about fuel shortages and incessant power cuts. They said power cuts have increased cost of doing business as they have to spend more on alternatives. Those who have invested in generators cried foul over inadequate diesel supply.
In an interview at the close of the conference, Tourism Business Council of Zimbabwe (TBCZ) chief executive officer, Mr Paul Matamisa, buttressed the concerns.
“Fuel shortage in the country is so far a major handicap to the growth of the tourism sector. The availability of fuel is really not up to standard if we are looking at tourism,” he said.
“The flow of traffic if people come into Zimbabwe, they aren’t coming to stay in Bulawayo or Harare or the major cities. They want to go to tourist attraction sites like Victoria Falls, Nyanga, and Great Zimbabwe.
“We have to make sure that we create service stations, which are going to be perpetually well provided with fuel, not a question of when you get there (filling station), maybe, because tourists don’t make a journey on a maybe basis.”
As such, Mr Matamisa implored Government to create ever green service stations to support industry operations and movements to various centres by tourists. Asked about how the tourism sector was coping on account of fuel shortages being experienced across the country, Mr Matamisa said:
“Players in the tourism sector are presently running from one service station to another in search of fuel and this is not good for the growth and development of the tourism business as more business hours are being lost.
“So, what we are simply saying is that we require people to have fuel for the business as well and not just for the travellers but the business that is supporting the travellers. If the businesses that facilitate tourist movements don’t have fuel then, there is a challenge”.
TBCZ projects that Zimbabwe’s tourist arrivals will this year grow by a minimum of 10 percent from 2,6 million tourists that visited the country last year. The anticipated growth trajectory in tourist arrivals is on the back of events such as Sanganai/Hlanganani World Tourism Expo as well as Zimbabwe’s participations at tourism indabas held in other countries such as South Africa and Berlin, German where local players have packaged and marketed the country’s tourism products to international visitors.
Mr Matamisa said they were also pleased that Government has acceded to their request to extend rebates on imported tourism equipment.
“In that regard, we would like to see more of all the tourism sectors being given the rebate facility so that we help them to facilitate growth in those other sectors, which currently do not have rebates.
“For instance, car hire companies have motor vehicles as their main mode of business and we need to assist them so that they are also able to procure up to date and standard vehicles that will be used by tourists.
“We are happy that Government acceded to our request for the coaches and buses for the tour operators.
“They are now in the ring but there are still many other players, restaurants for instance, they need new equipment and so on to upgrade their facilities and all that is required for them to improve business in their sector,” he said.
In the 2019 fiscal policy statement, Finance and Economic Development Minister Professor Mthuli Ncube proposed a rebate of duty on 75 new buses with a carrying capacity of eight to 55 passengers including the driver for the tourism industry.