‘Abolish visas in SADC’
Harare – Zimbabwe’s Tourism and Hospitality Minister Walter Mzembi says African countries must immediately repeal visa requirements for travel across borders on the continent.
Minister Mzembi said the travel restrictions hampered intra-Africa tourism and also hindered easier trade.
In a meeting with tourism stakeholders in Harare ahead of the UN World Tourism Organisation General Assembly to be co-hosted by Zambia and Zimbabwe in the resort town of Victoria Falls in August, Mzembi said Africa was losing big due to visa controls.
“Stringent issues that surrounded the facilitation of visas in the past have played a negative part towards tourist arrivals.
“Therefore, we want to correct that part before the hosting of the General Assembly,” he said.
“According to statistics 89 percent of (Zimbabwe’s) arrivals are intra-Africa. It is thus clear that these stringent visa and travel regimes are not doing us any good.
“They are too inflexible, lengthy and expensive and literally discourage travel into Zimbabwe hence it is high time we dealt with the issue,” he added.
Mzembi acknowledged the security concerns involved, and said for that reason he had engaged Chinhoyi University of Technology – a premier local tourism training institution – to research the feasibility of visa relaxation on the continent.
He said the research would explore how immigration processes like destination accessibility, visa systems and connectivity could be relaxed without compromising state and continental security.
The minister said the UNWTO General Assembly offered a platform to address tourism concerns in the region, including that of greater inter-state co-operation in the sector.
“The 20th Session of the UNWTO General Assembly is not for Zimbabweans and Zambians or a SADC issue, but an African affair which is also expected to determine the way forward for the lucrative sector,” he said.
Meanwhile, the Zimbabwe government announced the release of US$2 million for constructing a semi-permanent structure, in accordance with UNWTO specifications, to house 1 500 delegates at the General Assembly.
The conference facility should be ready two weeks before the event that will run from August 24 to 29.
Minister Mzembi dismissed reports that Zimbabwe’s July 31 election could interfere with the General Assembly, saying President Robert Mugabe had assured him that the polls would be peaceful.