Zimbabwe’s tourism industry is facing a challenge. For decades, weak infrastructure and tough visa rules have led would-be visitors to settle on other destinations. Peter Wakaba reports on the government plans for change.
Zimbabwe hopes for tourism revivalZimbabwe's tourism industry is facing a challenge. For decades, weak infrastructure and tough visa rules have led would-be visitors to settle on other destinations. Peter Wakaba reports on the government plans for change.
Zimbabwe’s tourism traffic and revenues, have been limited by a combination of factors. Poor air links, and restrictive visa regimes limit foreign traffic. Once in the country, tourists have to contend with poor roads, among other challenges. To resolve these problems, and expand its product offering, Zimbabwe is now implementing a National Tourism Policy.
Walter Mzembi, Minister of Tourism and Hospitality Industry, said,” The policy seeks to introduce a new range of tourism products, to diversify our tourism products to include amongst others religious tourism, agro-tourism, industrial tourism, historical tourism, township tourism, and the list is endless. We have a potential to earn $5 billion annually by 2020.”
The policy was first formulated in 2012, when authorities realized the country was losing revenue as potential tourists opted to go to other countries. Partly to make up the shortfall, President Robert Mugabe urged Zimbabweans to visit the country through the “Know your Zimbabwe, know yourself” campaign.
The policy also seeks to open new source markets in Brazil, Russia, India and China and South Africa. Other changes are planned.
“The first one is Zimbabwe’s compliance with the Yamoussoukro Declaration on Open Skies. The next policy area that we need to interrogate is our visa regime. So we need to set our sights on advancing from category ‘C’ to no visa at all especially for the BRICS,” Mzembi added.
The tourism policy will be formally launched after tripartite discussions with the Tourism Ministry, and representatives of the hospitality industry, the Zimbabwe Tourism Authority and the country’s Tourism Council.