By Matabeleland North Correspondent
TOUR operators and hoteliers in Victoria Falls have complained over what they find as unfair treatment by government after being overlooked on some national programmes extended to their counterparts.
Speaking at a meeting with Environment, Climate, Tourism and Hospitality Industry Minister Mangaliso Ndlovu during the week, industry players said Victoria Falls has not benefited from government during the Covid-19 period.
They said government still considered Victoria Falls self-sustaining even when it was apparent that the sector, which is the backbone of the Victoria Falls economy, was hard hit by the closure of businesses during the unprecedented lockdown period against the spread of coronavirus.
Government recently launched a $500 million financing package for the tourism industry, with a tourism revolving fund backed by a $20 million seed capital.
Operators in Victoria Falls said they feared they may not benefit in the same manner with their counterparts elsewhere.
“People take Victoria Falls as a low hanging fruit but do not give it priority when it comes to benefits,” said one operator during a meeting with the minister.
Another operator said small players like backyard lodges and were not benefiting from packages.
“Small to medium operators are not benefiting at all in Victoria Falls yet they are the ones whose products can be afforded by locals. We need a mechanism where they equally benefit so that they don’t go to illicit businesses like poaching,” said the operator.
Tourism Business Council of Zimbabwe representative Barbara Murasiranwa said operators and hoteliers in Victoria Falls were not accessing most services which are found in Harare and Bulawayo.
“As a result, some lack collateral because they are not supported,” she told Minister Ndlovu.
This comes as government is working on reopening the sector for domestic tourists.
Over the years domestic tourism was not given priority because Zimbabweans pay in the local currency while their rates are also low.
With Covid-19 hitting the tourism industry through massive cancellations on international travel, industry players are left with no option but to slash rates and accommodate locals.
Minister Ndlovu acknowledged that small players in the sector were struggling because of lack of support.
“We are there to assist,” he said.
“SMEs do not usually access these facilities. So, we want to make sure they benefit through inclusivity which is why we also plead for affordable packages.
“We will continue to lobby and government position is clear about packages and domestic tourism.”