By Matabeleland North Correspondent
Victoria Falls: President Emmerson Mnangagwa says the US$5 billion tourism economy is still achievable in 2025 despite disruption by the Covid-19 global pandemic which has seen the country expecting an 85 percent drop in arrivals this year.
Mnangagwa launched the National Tourism Recovery and Growth Strategy (NTRGS) at the Rainforest here Thursday morning where he said tourism is a low hanging fruit with capacity to drive the economy towards his government’s vision for a middle income economy by 2030.
“The National Tourism Recovery and Growth Strategy we are launching today is anchored on Zimbabwe vision to be a prime international tourism destination based on the judicious and sustainable exploitation of the unique assets of nature, culture, heritage and built environment.
“This strategy is influenced by my government vision 2030 to become an upper middle income economy characterised by increased investment free of poverty and corruption. Tourism has a role to play in attaining the country’s vision 2030 and US$5 billion tourism economy by 2025 is still achievable,” said President Mnangagwa.
He said the NTRGS will help position the tourism sector for robust growth in the country’s tourism sector and offer visitors an even more enjoyable product.
The strategy seeks to repackage Victoria Falls as the country’s prime destination and outlines government measures to capacitate domestic tourism while monitoring and assessing the international world on the implications of reopening international tourism.
It comes as government recently partially opened the sector including the Rainforest for local clients although this has so far realised insignificant gains as intercity travel is still locked.
“I am impressed by the record water levels at the mighty Victoria Falls which was closed for 100 days because of the Covid-19 pandemic. We are reopening the facility with the hope that tourism will rise again.
“I want to commend the tourism business for the investments being made and I challenge you to go for delivery and portray a positive image of the country. Adhere to health protocols so that hotels do not become hotspots,” added the President.
Environment, Tourism, Climate and Hospitality Industry Minister Nqobizitha Mangaliso Ndlovu said already the country’s occupancy rate in hotels had dropped to three percent.
“President Mnangagwa is setting the tone in opening the country for business as part of a broader strategy to national economic development towards vision 2030.
“The focus is now inward with domestic tourism set to bring a business drive as part of a journey towards the US$5 billion tourism economy. Domestic occupancy rate dropped to 3 percent in March and we expect an 85 percent drop in arrivals this year because of international travel restrictions.
“We are not in any way deterred by Covid-19 and the US$5 billion tourism economy can still be achieved,” said Ndlovu.
He said the launch of the NTRGS marks reopening of the Rainforest, a key attraction site for Zimbabwe’s tourism, with focus on local clients.
Ndlovu said there are numerous tourism infrastructure development projects in the pipeline in Victoria Falls, following a $500 million government guarantee package recently introduced to assist the tourism sector recover.
Zimbabwe started mooting a US$5 billion economy where it hoped to attract 5 million tourists from high spending European, Australian and United States countries a few years ago and initially the target was 2020.
The country hopes by 2025, tourism would contribute 15 percent of the country’s Gross Domestic Product. This was contained in the National Tourism Policy and Tourism Master Plan funded by the African Development Bank and not fully implemented.
Then government was aiming at providing mechanisms for easy entry to the sector by all sectors especially women and youths and also promoting Zimbabwe in non-traditional markets such as BRICS countries (Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa)
Later in the day President Mnangagwa toured Palm River Lodge and Mbano Manor Hotel.