THE country’s tourism and hospitality sector, once one of the leading contributors to the economic growth, is facing challenges and requires support from government to turn around, an industry player has said. Hospitality Association of Zimbabwe (HAZ) president, Tamuka Macheka, told the Financial Gazette’s Companies & Markets on the side-lines of a recent HAZ annual indaba that the sector was in a crisis.
“When you look at our sector you look at an industry which is quite sensitive,” he said.
“For instance of late we have experienced the issue of Ebola which is not even in Zimbabwe. It is, somewhere in West Africa but already that is affecting us. You remember during Sanganai/Hlanganani that there were a lot of cancellations from our buyers.” Macheka said the liquidity challenges Zimbabwe is battling with were not only affecting individuals but corporates as well.
He maintained: “It is a key issue which is affecting volumes, which has influenced traffic flows. People do not have money to spend so holidaying then becomes a luxury so it is a key issue that has affected us but there are also other critical issues that need to be sorted out.”
He said the country’s visa regime needed to be reviewed. “There are countries that face challenges in terms of getting visas and yet those are the potential source markets that may change the landscape in terms of our visitors. That whole issue needs to be revisited,” said Macheka, who is also the general manager for Golden Peacock Villa Hotel.
He said the visa system needed to be modified to allow people to apply on line. “Related to that there is also an issue where there are challenges at some ports of entry. If you look at Beitbridge for instance, people face challenges travelling from South Africa into Zimbabwe,” observed Macheka.
“But when you look at our statistics, you will realise that South Africa used to drive this economy in terms of tourism. They used to flood Masvingo, Vhumba, Mutare, Nyanga and various national parks and so forth. So the easiest thing for us to do if we want to increase visitors is to make it easy for South Africans to cross and move around.”
He said some tourists had written to them complaining about difficulties in getting into the country and the numerous police roadblocks disrupting easy movement. “Whilst we appreciate law and order, we need also to weigh it against (the risk of) discouraging travel,” he said.
Macheka commended Air Zimbabwe’s resumption of flights to Kariba saying it would help boost tourism in the resort town. “We need to make them (Air Zimbabwe) fly constantly and consistently so that they do not stop because as long as your national airline has got challenges, then as an economy you are not going to prosper. So whether they are going to make losses or not, at least that must be sacrificed from a government perspective or from a national perspective so that they may be able to deliver and keep on moving the people (around),” he said.
Macheka said government should continue to defer its proposal to introduce 15 percent Value Added Tax (VAT) on payments for lodgings and tourism services by foreign visitors, contending it would make Zimbabwe currently battling to increase inflows to be even more expensive than its competitors. – Mandla Tshuma