Zimbabwe seeks a seven-fold growth in tourism export earnings — as much as $7 billion by 2030 — to be achieved through effective marketing, product development and facilitation and access, a strategy document has shown.
BY TATIRA ZWINOIRA
Other pillars of growth include environmental sustainability, destination management, information communication technology, and human capital development, according to the National Tourism Sector Strategy (NTSS).
The strategy projects arrivals of 7 million up from 2,42 million arrivals recorded in 2017.
The policy also seeks to increase the tourism sector’s contribution to the gross domestic product (GDP) to $8,1 billion from the current $2,5 billion.
This is already up from an initial plan to grow the industry to a $5 billion GDP contributor.
The strategy runs from 2018 to 2030 and acts as a guideline for resuscitating the tourism and travel industry.
Tourism and Hospitality minister Prisca Mupfumira said the development of the NTSS had come at an opportune time for the country due to the global tourism trends.
“It will position our sector for growth and development by formulating initiatives that will enable employment creation, infrastructure development and exports generation,” she said, adding it was critical to position the sector to play its part in achieving a middle-income economy by 2030 as pronounced by President Emmerson Mnangagwa last month.
In 2017, arrivals into Zimbabwe rose by 12% to 2,42 million from 2,17 million in 2016.
Analysts, however, say the anticipated growth in arrivals is no easy task considering the country is an add-on destination because it is largely unattractive.
For example, 30,4% of the visitors on holiday/leisure on packages do not spend a night in Zimbabwe while 58,9% of those who stay spend just two to three nights in the country.
This is buttressed by the fact that international tourists into Zimbabwe spend more at $1 250 than their regional counterparts at $310.
Despite the average growth rate of 6% of overseas tourists over the past few years, this has done nothing to significantly improve tourist arrivals in the country.
As an add-on destination, Zimbabwe is packaged with Botswana at 55,3%, South Africa (50,3%) and Namibia (21,7%).
While the statistics of GDP growth may be encouraging, the fact that government has in the past failed to allocate adequate resources to the country is a major stumbling block, according to industry experts.
The arrivals into southern Africa accounted for 2% of global arrivals in 2017, showing the country needs to be more attractive and competitive regionally, hence, the creation of the NTSS.
Tourism and Hospitality Industry permanent secretary Thokozile Chitepo said the development of the NTSS was a culmination of extensive collaboration between the government and the tourism private sector through the Zimbabwe Council for Tourism.
“In keeping with our policy position that tourism is government-led, private sector-driven and community welfare-oriented, the ministry of Tourism and Hospitality Industry led the development of the national tourism sector,” she said.
“Extensive consultations were also held in all the provinces to ensure that we could capture the views of the private sector who are the drivers of the tourism business and also ensure that the ordinary man and woman in the street, who normally is not given an opportunity to influence policy, was able to do so.”
The NTSS comes as a response to Mnangagwa’s order to ministers in December 2017 to come up with a 100-day action plan to grow their sectors.
NTSS is part of Mupfumira’s 100-day action plan for the tourism and hospitality industry.
“While the tourism sector has experienced growth over the years, growing from a $200 million sector in 2009 to $967 million in 2017, there is consensus that the negative perceptions that followed Zimbabwe’s economic challenges since the year 2000 have been an albatross that has not enabled Zimbabwe to experience exponential growth in the tourism sector,” the document said.
“With the recent political developments of November 2017, which ushered in a new political dispensation, there is growing optimism that Zimbabwe’s economic fortunes have turned the corner for the better. In order to prepare for the expected boom in tourism, it has become necessary to develop a national tourism sector that ensures a whole government approach in the development of tourism.”
Experts says the pillars in NTSS are difficult to reach considering the country’s negative perception that it has had for years on the back of the former president Robert Mugabe and his government’s policies.
Under the destination management pillar, the NTSS seeks to achieve efficient and transparent management of responsible and sustainable tourism development giving visitors memorable experiences.
Yet, foreign travellers had to deal with police roadblocks and harassment by the police manning those roadblocks. This scenario has, however, changed lately with the removal of roadblocks from the country’s roads.
Under the effective marketing pillar, the NTSS seeks a “coherent approach anchored on a shared vision to reposition Zimbabwe as a desirable holiday destination in the international traditional and new markets and growing the domestic market”.
However, Zimbabwe’s biggest tourist destination, Victoria Falls, is also being marketed by South Africa, which is generating more revenue from it alongside Zambia.
Currently, support to the sector is coming from a $15 million tourism revival fund facility availed by the Reserve Bank of Zimbabwe.
The strategy says improving the information communication technology structures was a way to develop “strong and better relationships with visitors, cost reduction and yield enhancement for operators and improved connectivity and information throughout the industry”.
Zimbabwe has for long been uncompetitive as a tourist destination due to high costs associated with accommodation, tourist packages, travel and food.
But, despite all of this, the NTSS states that if approached correctly, “the tourism sector is one integrated economic system which has the capacity of making substantive social, economic and environmental contributions that are very necessary, structural, to economic success, (very responsible to the citizens of Zimbabwe) not too clear and that can bring wealth creation across many sectors and communities in the country”.
It adds that “in the context of an integrated economic system, the sector can both protect and enhance the country’s most valuable resources that provide the most motivation to travel to, in and around Zimbabwe; its people and nature/wildlife, at the same time, generating valuable export earnings and foreign direct investment.”
In order to achieve the NTSS policy pillars, tourism players say robust transformation, commitment and private sector engagement will be needed going forward.
The NTSS is undergoing final changes before being made policy.