TOURISM and Hospitality Industry Minister Prisca Mupfumira says the designation of Victoria Falls as a tourism special economic zone corridor will go a long way in ensuring that tourism development is spread across the Matabeleland North Province.
Tourism product profiling has been mainly focusing on Victoria Falls leaving out other areas in the province.
Addressing delegates at a consultative workshop on the National Tourism Sector Strategy (NTSS) in Victoria Falls, Minister said the special economic zone approach will result in the entire province benefitting.
“I am happy that the Government is considering the adoption of Victoria Falls Tourism Special Economic Zone corridor approach.
“This initiative will address the imbalance in product profiling within the province by mainstreaming areas such as Binga, Hwange and environs into the product portfolio.
“This will go a long way in ensuring that Tourism development does not only concentrate on Victoria Falls but spread to the province as a whole,” she said.
Minister Mupfumira added that the designation of the region as a special economic zone does not mean local people are barred from investing especially those at the grassroots level.
“This serves as a clarion call on our people that the sector is open for investment by locals at all levels.
“Thus, as Government, we need to put in place measures that support small tourism operators to invest in the Special Economic Zone,” she said.
According to the Tourism Minister, upon successful implementation, the Special Economic Zone would see the construction of a world-class tourism and hospitality training institution that will capture the attention of the SADC region.
“The institution will help address the human resource base gaps in the sector as well as the province.”
As a way of showing its commitment to the development of the special economic zones, the ministry has since placed the project under its 100-day work plan program and envisage to develop a concept note and a Master Plan for the zone.
Mupfumira said these documents will help to inform the strategic direction in terms of investment in the Special Economic Zone while at the same time taking into consideration the environmental sustainability issues associated with Victoria Falls and environs.
The Tourism Ministry said it will work together with other relevant line ministries such as the Ministry of Environment, Water and Climate to develop the Master Plan.
Meanwhile, the ministry is working in collaboration with Ministry of Environment, ZimParks and Environment Africa for the conservation of the Victoria Falls environment and maintaining the World Heritage Site status.
The development of the special economic zones is also expected to help boost the number of accommodation rooms in Victoria Falls.
Currently, Victoria Falls has about 1781 rooms, with hotels accounting for 1125 while the remainder is shared between lodges and other accommodation facilities.