THE Reserve Bank of Zimbabwe (RBZ) has unveiled a $15 million Tourism Support Facility aimed at capacitating small players to effectively participate in the development of the sector and contribute towards improving the country’s economy.

Addressing tourism stakeholders in Harare recently, Tourism and Hospitality Industry Minister Prisca Mupfumira said the facility would go a long way towards growing the country’s tourism sector.

“The issue of funding is indeed a key element for the sustainable growth of the tourism sector. I am therefore delighted that the RBZ, in its efforts to promote an export-led revival of our economy has appreciated the importance of our sector and availed this facility which provides a timely boost to our efforts to further grow the tourism economy,” she said.

Minister Mupfumira said the facility would be channelled towards eradicating poverty through capacitating disadvantaged groups of the society to play a part in the growth of tourism sector while enhancing their livelihoods in the process.

“My ministry will ensure that the nation derives maximum benefits out of the facility. As Government, we seek to achieve the empowerment of our people through tourism in order to ensure it becomes a real tool for poverty eradication. In doing so, Government through my ministry, will ensure that this facility is extended to smaller players in the tourism sector, including those intending to enter into mainstream tourism business. The Tourism Support Facility should capacitate the disadvantaged women and youth to participate in the tourism sector in line with overall Government Policy to empower our people,” she said.

Minister Mupfumira said the fund would also be accessed by registered operators while also urging those that are unregistered to do so before the end of March so as to restore order and sanity in the sector.

“It is disheartening to note that there are a number of operators who are illegally operating and offering tourism services in contravention of the Tourism Act Chapter 14:20 of 1996. Such players are offering unfair competition to genuine tourism operators and are defrauding Government of revenue. I therefore wish to encourage and persuade all such unregistered operators to ensure they register their tourism businesses between now and the end of March 2018.

“Thereafter, I will direct the Zimbabwe Tourism Authority, in conjunction with relevant arms of the law to undertake a blitz on all unregistered operators. I urge concerned parties to take heed of this moratorium that I have issued. As Government we will ensure that no unregistered operator benefits from this facility. It should benefit only those operators duly registered by the ZTA,” she said.

Minister Mupfumira said expectations for the tourism sector have been heightened by the renewed confidence in Zimbabwe as a safe destination, ushered in by the new political dispensation.

She further stated that her ministry had identified several projects and programmes for implementation under the 100-days targeted performance programme initiated by President Emmerson Mnangagwa.

“Chief among the challenges affecting tourism growth is limited international air access, inadequate internal airline connectivity, poor state of roads in tourism resorts and a non-competitive tourism product that is not only overpriced but old and tired.

“We are in the process of developing a National Tourism Sector Strategy. The main objective of the strategy is to harness and co-ordinate all efforts for holistic tourism development in Zimbabwe and ensure a shared vision for tourism development,” she said.

Minister Mupfumira said other programmes which are on the cards include the establishment of a National Tourism Facilitation Committee, whose main aim would be to deal with impediments to travel, launch a domestic tourism campaign and develop a tourism satellite account.

“The domestic tourism campaign is aimed at making tourism accessible to locals through intensified awareness of what the country has to offer. Under this programme, the 10 publicity associations run by local authorities countrywide will be rebranded into Tourism Information Centres.

“Through ZTA, we will provide them with grants to fund regional marketing plans. We will also work closely with the Ministry of Local Government, Public Works and National Housing in conducting training to ensure these Publicity Associations are well capacitated to promote tourism development,” she said.

The ministry has also intensified efforts to ensure the development of a National Tourism Satellite Account, which is a United Nations World Tourism Organisation (UNWTO) prescribed tool for measuring the contribution of tourism to the economy.

“Having completed the International Visitor Exit Survey in 2016, we have embarked on the Domestic and Outbound Tourism Survey. As I speak, teams are out in the provinces to carry out this extended household survey which kicked off on the 27th of December 2017 and will run until the 10th of February 2018. After completion of this survey we will be in a position to ensure the completion of Zimbabwe’s first ever Tourism Satellite Account,” said Min Mupfumira.

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