The new political leadership has set the tone for the economic recovery of Zimbabwe, Tourism and Hospitality Industry Minister Priscah Mupfumira has said.
Mupfumira was addressing delegates at the United Kingdom tour operators engagement reception at the Zimbabwe House in London.
“The 100-day period brought new developments and investments into Zimbabwe. To mention a few, the South African Diaspora have invested in resuscitating the National Railways. You also heard about the Davos mission, yes, indeed the platform has already brought in a lot of investment proposals which soon will be implemented in Zimbabwe.
“We are happy that IMF and World Bank are in full support of the new Government. It is in this support and the goodwill of the international world that Zimbabwe will engage in free, fair and non-violent elections,” Mupfumira said..
On her appointment as the Minister of Tourism and Hospitality Industry end of last year, Mupfumira was intensely briefed by His Excellency the President of the Republic of Zimbabwe Hon. E. D. Mnangagwa on his expectations from this sector.
Mnangagwa made it clear that economics and trade cooperation would be the priority in Zimbabwe, rather than politics, in order to catch up with the region.
Zimbabwe was lagging behind in many areas as a result of isolation for the past 18 years. Now there is the popular mantra to the world: Zimbabwe is open for business.
There is enthusiasm and excitement from all major source markets following the historical and peaceful transformation in November that ushered Zimbabwe into the new era. The past has never been rosy with the previous decade characterised by deep hostility and isolation particularly from the international market which was once the mainstay of Zimbabwe’s development and growth.
“Speaking from the industry I preside over, the tourism industry used to receive a contribution of more than 30% from the overseas market in the 1990s when tourism was at its peak and this contribution has since dropped to less than 15%. The United Kingdom which we consider the top and key primary market in Europe dropped its arrivals to Zimbabwe from 189 436 to less than 30 000. This on its own was a clear sign of Zimbabwe’s gradual fall out from past glory.
“We are very much aware that the fall of arrivals from the UK and other source markets was triggered by politics. Many visitors from this market felt that Zimbabwe was an unsafe destination and prone to violence. Ladies and gentlemen, let me assure you that Zimbabwe is a nation of peace-loving people. We attribute this trait to the ‘Ubuntu’ – who we are as a people but also to the ties that we have with this great nation. As a former English colony, our literacy rate is not only high, but adjusted by the UNDP to be the second highest in Africa, after Tunisia, and we believe in peaceful negotiations as witnessed by the recent change of administration in my country,” Mupfumira said.
Despite the hard-economic times in the recent past, Zimbabweans always welcome visitors with warmth and deep hospitality, which is something that sets its people apart from the rest. The people’s warmth makes the visitors’ stay and visit a memorable one.
The country is ready to re-engage with Britain and the international community at large. The minister revealed that many strides were made in addressing some of the major barriers that were affecting the growth of tourism in Zimbabwe.
One such critical issue was the numerous roadblocks that had become a menace not only to the visitors but to the domestic market alike to the extent that it had become very unbearable and difficult for locals to travel around the country.
“I am happy to announce that this has since become a thing of the past and as nationals we are back to enjoying the drives around Zimbabwe and we are here to invite you to come and enjoy the drives once again.
“Of course, there is an issue of road infrastructure, which the Government has prioritised, and major roads are receiving urgent and priority attention. The Government is also seized with addressing all the hindrances that inhibit travel within Zimbabwe to ensuring that your travels from the point of entry to the point of exit is a pleasure. This includes the ease of facilitation at the border posts and the liberalisation of the visa regime. To date, the Government has reviewed the visa regime with 29 countries upgraded from Category C to Category B which facilitates the attaining of visas at the port of entry,” Mupfumira added.
The efforts are an indication of the readiness to welcome the travellers to Zimbabwe and in turn grow the tourism sector. The tourism sector remains committed to engaging the markets and welcomes the expertise, feedback and ideas on how tour operators can assist in pushing destination Zimbabwe competitively in the UK.
Zimbabwe cannot do it alone. It needs partners. As a destination, it remain indebted to the industry leaders for the strategic role they play in getting the tourism products to the market. The diaspora efforts have aided a rejuvenation in the arrivals received last year which saw the United Kingdom registering 73 552 arrivals in Zimbabwe.
There is expectation of massive but responsible tourism developments in the near future, which will appeal to today’s responsible travellers.
Zimbabwe will soon be undertaking familiarisation tours for both the agents and the media, so that they could witness for themselves the great strides collectively made by all tourism sector players. The visitors should feel free to point out areas that must be addressed, and will its best to ensure that the needs of the travellers are met.
Zimbabwe is inviting tour operators to participate in the varied opportunities that hves opened to the travel industry. For example, there are a myriad of opportunities in the Victoria Falls which was declared the Special Economic Zone which is premised to see the development of world class tourism facilities and services for example in the hotel industry, shopping, entertainment, medical, meetings and conferencing, gaming and other tourism related services. The Tokwe Mukosi area is also another upcoming area seized for massive tourism developments.
To support this, the Government has committed to offering tourism investment incentives such as duty exemptions and rebates on capital goods for tourism development zones as well as the provision of the tourism fund.