By Daniel Chigundu
ENVIRONMENT, Tourism and Hospitality Industry Minister Prisca Mupfumira has said she is going to meet the new Finance Minister Mthuli Ncube to apprise him on the importance of the tourism sector to the economy and the funding requirements.
Tourism is said to be one of the country’s lowest hanging fruit with quick returns in terms of trying to revive the economy provided it is adequately funded.
Zimbabwe Tourism Authority (ZTA) a parastatal charged with marketing the country’s tourism sector requires about US$17 million to effectively implement its marketing strategies that include participating in various travel shows and having marketing offices in certain source markets such as China.
Of the US$17million, the US$6 million is expected to come from the 2 percent Tourism Levy, while the remaining US$11 million is supposed to be met by the government through treasury.
However, the government has been unwilling in the past to avail the US$11 million, despite the promises by the former Finance Minister Patrick Chinamasa in September of 2017.
This has seen ZTA failing to effectively discharge its mandate of luring tourists to the country especially from such countries as China which is the biggest source market for outbound tourists in the world.
Zimbabwe is relatively unknown in China but is looking at attracting at least 150 000 Chinese tourists by 2025 and this would require a lot of marketing funds and a buy-in of the vision by government especially from the top.
Addressing the media recently Minister Mupfumira said they had effectively sold their vision to Chinamasa such that he was now in the picture with regards to the needs of the sector adding that she is going to do the same with Minister Ncube.
“The former Minister (Patrick Chinamasa) was now beginning to understand tourism and how it works, so I am going to meet the new minister and sit down with him so that he can understand the importance of carnival and supporting the tourism marketing activities,” she said.
Mupfumira’s decision to meet the finance minister comes just at the right time when the government is about to start consultations for its 2019 Annual National Budget.
Before his removal from the government, Chinamasa was of the view that most of the budget should be allocated to such sectors as tourism which is productive so that they can continue to bring more foreign currency for the country.
Tourism is one of the few reliable foreign currency earners for the country together with mining and agriculture and has the potential to do even better with enough support.
Currently, government through the Reserve Bank of Zimbabwe has availed a US$15 million facility for the tourism sector for recapitalisation purposes and while many applauded the fund, so are of the view that it is too little given the magnitude of retooling that the sector should undertake in order to be up to date with the present.-