From George Maponga in Masvingo
Zimbabwe is poised for unprecedented tourism growth attributable to the peaceful transition that occurred last November that brought in a new dispensation led by President Mnangagwa, Vice President General Constantino Chiwenga (Retired), has said.
He said the tourism sector was fast consolidating its position as one of the four economic pillars of the economy, with over 2,4 million tourists having visited the country last year, representing a 12 percent increase from 2016, which recorded 2,16 million arrivals.
VP Chiwenga was speaking at Great Zimbabwe Hotel where he officially launched the National Tourism Master Plan, the Community-Based Tourism Enterprises Manual and the Community-Based Tourism Enterprises Handbook.
The three policy documents are expected to give impetus to the ongoing thrust to revive the tourism sector in line with Government’s mantra – Zimbabwe is open for business.
VP Chiwenga said the advent of the new dispensation led by President Mnangagwa saw the world changing its perception of Zimbabwe.
He said the boom in tourism was evidenced by a spike in tourist arrivals at key attraction sites like Victoria Falls.
‘’In the first quarter of 2018, the country has already received increased arrivals with, for example, Victoria Falls registering over 17 000 increase from a baseline 8 000 in air traffic arrivals at Victoria Falls International Airport from January to April. This represents a 48 percent increase in arrivals compared to the same period last year,’’ he said.
‘’Considering that the first quarter is generally a low period, this performance raises hopes that indeed Zimbabwe is poised for an unprecedented growth in the tourism sector, riding on the prevailing goodwill and interest from different source markets.”
VP Chiwenga attributed the development to the peaceful transition.
‘’All this is happening on the backdrop of the peaceful transition of the new dispensation led by his Excellency, the President of the Republic of Zimbabwe and Commander-in-Chief of the Zimbabwe Defence Forces Cde ED Mnangagwa, which has totally changed the image and perception of Zimbabwe from a country perceived to be at war with itself, to an exceptionally safe and peaceful country.
‘’In 2017, the country received a total of 2,42 million tourist arrivals which represents a 12 percent increase from the 2,16 million tourists received in 2016,’’ said VP Chiwenga.
He said the launch of the National Tourism Plan will lead to the growth of the sector. VP Chiwenga said the launch of the plan would result in double-digit growth of the tourism sector, which was only guided by the Tourism Act of 1986.
The country did not have such a plan since Independence in 1980.
‘’It is, therefore, a key pointer for both domestic and international investors into potential areas of investment in the various tourist centres throughout the country. It also provides direction for the preservation of our rich history, culture and heritage by outlining the need to develop heritage trails that depict how our heritage sites such as Great Zimbabwe are interconnected with other regional monuments such as Mapungubwe.’’
He urged the private sector to grab opportunities identified in the Tourism Master Plan in line with Government’s thrust to create a robust tourism industry in the country. Government has already initiated a $15 million Tourism Development Support Facility that is disbursed through the Reserve Bank of Zimbabwe for funding tourism projects.
VP Chiwenga said the launch of the plan together with the Community-Based Tourism Enterprises Manual and Handbook resonated with Government’s desire to engender an empowered society and fulfil President Mnangagwa’s vision of making Zimbabwe a middle income country devoid of poverty by the year 2030.
Government’s thrust to promote Community-Based Tourism Enterprises is meant to increase beneficiation of local endowments and diversifying tourism products.
VP Chiwenga lamented the collapse of the majority of Community-Based Tourism Enterprises in the country during economic difficulties which saw the number of such enterprises dwindling from 200 to less than 50.
He implored partners such as the African Development Bank and the Japan International Cooperation Agency (JICA) to work closely with the tourism ministry to revive the collapsed Community-Based Tourism Enterprises.
The Community-Based Enterprises Handbook will give impetus to the Domestic Tourism Campaign, encouraging locals to visit tourist attraction sites in the country.
‘’The launch of these policy documents should not be just a talk show, but signify a paradigm shift in the way we conduct our tourism business in sync with the country’s development mantra, Zimbabwe is Open for Business,’’ said VP Chiwenga.
The National Tourism Master Plan was crafted with funding assistance from the AfDB and other partners.
Present at the launch were Tourism and Hospitality Industry Minister Prisca Mupfumira, Masvingo Provincial Affairs Minister Senator Josaya Hungwe and other senior Government officials.