Innocent Ruwende Senior Reporter
Government is set to introduce a cocktail of measures to resuscitate and capacitate the tourism industry including changing the visa regime to enable tourists to apply for visas at the port of entry, speeding immigration clearance time, building new airports and refurbishing existing ones.
Officially launching the National Consultative Stakeholder Workshop on Tourism Strategy, Vice President General Dr Constantino Guveya Dominic Chiwenga (Retired) said efforts were underway to acquire state-of-the-art equipment to improve aircraft and baggage handling.
“Government on its part is committed to creating a conducive political and socio economic environment to make the country’s tourist destinations competitive and appealing to both local and foreign tourists. A robust tourism strategy should make entry and exit of tourists smooth and should facilitate ease access to tourism centres,” he said.
“As part of efforts to develop and promote tourism and facilitate the ease of movement of tourists, Government has placed high priority on the review and appropriate amendment of the visa regime in its work plan for the first 100 days from January 1, 2018.”
“Concerns have been raised about unwarranted delays and challenges faced by tourists as they arrive at our ports of entry. I am pleased to announce that the Ministry of Home Affairs and Culture has responded positively by committing to expedite the E-Government programme. This will entail among others the issuance of instant visas at every point of entry in a bid to improve efficiency,” he said.
He said through the National Handling Services concerted efforts were underway to acquire new state-of-the-art equipment to improve aircraft and baggage handling to make tourist experience more memorable while Government will also refurbish roads in most tourism resorts to improve access.
VP Chiwenga said plans were also afoot to develop new airports in Mutare and Beitbridge as well as to refurbish the Robert Gabriel Mugabe International Airport, Kariba and Buffalo Range airports.
He said it was also imperative to invest in human skills development of Zimbabweans so that they can retain the rational warmth and hospitality for which the country is renowned world over.
“Government has tasked Transport and Infrastructural Development (Ministry) to revamp Air Zimbabwe to ensure it plays its key role as the national flag carrier,” he said.
VP Chiwenga said Government will also open the skies to other airlines and attend to problems faced by those already operating, which include foreign currency.
“Tourism is undoubtedly a key sector of our economy that has been contributing significantly to national income, foreign exchange and employment generation. According to UNWTO tourism accounts for one in every ten jobs globally,” he said.
“Currently Zimbabwe is earning over $800 million from tourism activities and the sector employs around 300 000 people directly and indirectly. Projections of tourism arrivals are expected to grow from 2,1 million registered in 2016 to over 2,4 million in 2018.”
VP Chiwenga said Government remains convinced that tourism presents other long term opportunities to grow the economy and improve the livelihoods of the people.
He said the new political dispensation under the able leadership of His Excellency President Mnangagwa was committed to a new economy characterised by equal opportunities for all citizens and residents to thrive through private initiative and enterprise.
Tourism and Hospitality Industry Minister Priscah Mupfumira said her thrust was to promote international and domestic tourism.
“We already have products geared towards that trajectory. These products include the strategy being launched today. As stakeholders, I urge you to brainstorm over our unique God-given products, which we can market to attract a cocktail of tourists,” she said.
“Our green tea has been lab tested and certified to be more nutritious than many teas from abroad. We have the Mopane worm and various poultry dishes. The list is endless on the nature aspect, Zimbabwe is blessed.”