ZIMBABWE is targeting to jump its annual tourism earnings to $5 billion from the current $1 billion in the next six years riding on improved tourism policies, an official said on Monday.
Tourism and Hospitality Industry Minister Walter Mzembi told journalists that the government would launch the country’s inaugural tourism policy on Thursday.
“We have the potential to earn $5 billion per annum by 2020. The $5 billion is exactly the size of (Finance) Minister (Patrick) Chinamasa’s budget today,” Mzembi said. “I am not dreaming.”
Zimbabwe currently earns on average $1 billion annually from tourism receipts, falling behind its peers such as South Africa which clocks $12 billion and Tanzania at $1.7 billion.
Mzembi said Zimbabwe, which is reportedly seeking a $10 billion loan from the Chinese, could easily mobilise funding for its economic recovery programmes through the tourism sector.
Implementing the global open skies policy and relaxing visa restrictions for foreign visitors from tourist source market countries like China were key to unlocking tourism receipts, he said.
“In 1999 we had 48 international carriers landing at Harare International Airport, today we are at 16,” he said.
“We are seeking to bring Zimbabwe back to its air hub status. We need to sign up another 32 airlines (to reach 1999 level) and it is not impossible.”
With three international airports which have been renovated to global standards to accommodate larger aircrafts, Mzembi said the country could easily push up its air traffic and tourist volumes by operationalizing the 50 air service agreements it has signed with various countries.
Scrapping of visa requirements, he said, must be initially targeted at the BRICS (Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa) countries which account for more than 50 percent of global travellers.
Zimbabwe would also need to work on its brand image within the next six years to boost arrivals, he said.
The country’s tourism sector hit the bottom in the decade ending 2008 after a fall out with western countries which resulted in travel warnings being issued against visiting Zimbabwe.
But thawing relations have seen the western countries which supply the bulk of tourists to Zimbabwe, relaxing the travel warnings.Advertisement
As part of wider measures to encourage domestic tourism, Mzembi said his ministry had submitted a proposal to the Civil Service Commission to include holiday packages for public workers in their conditions of service.
“Every civil servant should take at least one holiday in a year with their family,” he said.
Government would use its facilities owned by institutions such as the Zimbabwe Parks and Wildlife Management Authority to cater for the holidaying civil servants.
The authority has facilities all over the country with a total of 700 beds.
“Occupancies at National Parks establishments is one of the lowest in the country,” Mzembi said.
“Rather than let them lie idle, we want them to utilise that dead capacity.”