Zim to ‘plug tourism holes’

Harare – Zimbabwe will plug all holes in the tourism sector to ensure that the country derives maximum benefits from the industry. Tourism Minister Walter Mzembi said recently that currently the country was not benefiting much from tourism despite the increasing number of tourist arrivals. He gave an example of Zimbabwe’s prime tourism destination, the Victoria Falls, whose hotels are fully booked until December but the country is not expected to benefit much in terms of income from the arrivals. Addressing Chinhoyi University of Technology students during a public lecture on Wednesday, Minister Mzembi said the Government and players in the tourism industry were working on mechanisms to plug loopholes that are depriving the country of revenue. “Victoria Falls is fully booked up to December, but we have to find ways of reconciling the body count in terms of visitors and what the country gets in terms of what they (tourists) spend in the country. “We have to find ways of getting full value for our products here,” he said. Minister Mzembi said most of the bookings were paid for outside Zimbabwe. The tourism industry, he said, was exploring the possibility of establishing tourism satellite accounting so that the country can harness all income. He said his ministry was working on ways to boost tourism’s contribution to GDP from the current 4,5 percent to about 15 percent by 2015, which is marginally below the 16,1 percent of 2007. The minister said their perception management programme was yielding positive results. “The Brazil-Zimbabwe soccer match was the single biggest public relations exercise as it was an investment into our national identity. The attention was on Zimbabwe,” the minister noted. The face of “Brand Zimbabwe”, he said, was President Mugabe and it was pleasing to note that the number of negative and false reports on the country and its leader had significantly dwindled. Minister Mzembi said the United Nations World Tourism Organisation placed Zimbabwe at number 35 out of 133 countries in terms natural beauty and attractiveness but ranked the country number 121 in terms of risk. This, he said, showed that political perceptions were “far removed from God’s perceptions” and urged the world to look at Zimbabwe for what it was and not what people claimed it was. Minister Mzembi also said they were establishing provincial and district tourism boards that will drive tourism development through targeted marketing of tourist attractions. Their marketing strategies will be underpinned by special emphasis on elements of the country’s war of liberation and a deliberate move to capture the country’s history before colonialism in 1890. “When you visit other countries, they take you to places of historical significance . . . because they take pride in their history. We are driving towards that through setting up tourism boards at provincial level.”

September 2010
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