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Tourism package remains elusive

BY FIDELITY MHLANGA

THE tourism sector is yet to receive the Covid-19 stimulus package  announced  by the government last year, it has emerged.

President Emmerson Mnangagwa’s administration last year pledged an $18 billion Covid-19 stimulus and rescue package, cutting across all productive sectors to ensure that they get the critical liquidity to kick-start operations and protect jobs from the debilitating impact of the pandemic.

Tourism was one of the sectors expected to benefit from the 18 billion stimulus package with a promised allocation of $500 million. Other beneficiaries included Agriculture support ($6,08 billion), Working Capital Fund ($3,02 billion), Mining Sector Fund ($1 billion), Small to Medium Enterprises (SMEs) Support Fund ($500 million), Arts Sector Fund ($20 million), Liquidity Release from Statutory Reserves ($2 billion), Health Sector Support Fund ($1 billion), Broad Relief Measures ($1,50 billion), Food Grant ($2,40 billion)

However, the Hospitality Association of Zimbabwe (HAZ) told Standardbusiness in a wide ranging interview that the industry is still awaiting for the rescue  package to materialise.

“This (rescue funding) has had implementation hiccups and the industry still awaits implementation,” Haz President Farai Chimba said.

“We know our parent ministry continues to work tirelessly to have this addressed and recently we were apprised of funding that will be available for industry soon.”

This comes after the tourism sector lost in excess of US$1,1 billion as Covid-19 slowed down  business stemming from travel restrictions and lockdowns

Chimba painted a grim picture of the current state of the country’s tourism sector, which has been one of the worst affected by the pandemic.

“The pandemic brought in a phase that shut doors to our business with immediate financial losses, which we will not recover from. A room not slept in is revenue you can never recover. Tourism as a whole has lost in excess of US$ 1.1 billion which has left a deep hole for operators who are now struggling to restock and equip their operations,” Chimba said.

“Loss of jobs is estimated to have been 45% by year end 2020 coupled with over 8 months of non-operations for most businesses. Skilled personnel from the lowest levels and up left the industry completely into other sectors of the economy. This was skills wealth created over decades lost, which will take years to build on again.”

Early this year, the Safari Operators Association of Zimbabwe pleaded for a US$100 million grant for the tourism sector after suffering the worst battering from pandemic inspired hard lockdowns.

Presenting the 2022 national budget last month, Finance minister Mthuli Ncube revealed that the government had instead opted to issue domestic guarantees amounting to $24,2 billion and US$15,2 million  as a cushioning to companies against the effects of Covid-19.

A government guarantee is an arrangement in which a government entity undertakes payment of a debt or performance of an obligation in the event of a default by the primary creditor.

Tourism minister Nqobizitha Mangaliso Ndlovu recently said that the best government could do was build a solid revolving facility which tourism firms hit by Covid-19-induced lockdowns could tap into but pay back.

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