THE $15 million Tourism Revival Fund facility availed by the Reserve Bank of Zimbabwe (RBZ) to prop up the collapsing industry has been lying idle for about seven months with only three industry’s players having applied to access the loan to date.
Hospitality Association of Zimbabwe president Mr Innocent Manyera said most players in the tourism and hospitality sector were shying away from applying for the tourism fund, which was launched by the RBZ in January largely due to the prevailing black market monetary indiscipline and discrepancies in the country.
“Before the elections about three players in the sector had applied for the Tourism Fund and by the time we checked up with on them, their funds were yet to be released. Some operators are sceptical to access the fund as the bond note is subjected to outrageous black market exchange rate against the US dollar and other currencies in the multiple basket. Suppliers of products also have different prices, for one paying in US dollars, bond and transfers more like the three-tier system, hence players are proposing for it to be accessed as hard US dollars,” said Mr Manyera.
RBZ launched the facility to help the tourism sector renew its product and entice new players. Mr Manyera said the registration and licensing of players in the hospitality industry, which had been temporarily stopped during the election period would resume soon.
The licensing process is meant to pave way for the re-grading of tourist facilities countrywide. Re-grading is done after every two years to make sure that hotels, lodges and resorts maintain their standards, restore sanity and curb unwarranted overcharging in the sector.
“Some hotels and hospitality facilities are undergoing the re-grading system very well to check whether there are areas that need improvement to match the stars that they were awarded previously or to be given additional stars if they have made other improvements that are beyond the previous inspection. But these facilities should not wait for the re-grading period to be re-graded if they have made progress on their property, they can actually call ZTA to come and re-grade them,” said Mr Manyera.
Zimbabwe Tourism Authority chief executive Dr Karikoga Kaseke said his organisation was aware of the state of virtually all hospitality facilities in the country.
“We have never faulted in that area. Those hotels which were due for re-grading have been graded and those that are still due will be re-graded. We have not slacked in that area as we are always on time because we know and have records of which hotels are due for re-grading. When a hotel is due for grading we write to them three months before so that they can prepare and know when we will be coming to re-grade them,” said Dr Kaseke.
He further acknowledged that the re-grading process was meant to ensure high standards at all hospitality facilities while also noting that most of the players have over the years faced difficulties in maintaining and improving their standards largely due to the meltdown of the country’s economy over the years.
“I don’t think re-grading is an issue but the issue comes when we give other hotels five stars, some four or three because some don’t really meet the standards. It is because of the situation we are coming from. We are coming from a situation where it is very difficult for these hotels to refurbish their facilities to make sure that they are up to stretch and up to standard. But I can see a very major improvement in terms of all facilities trying to meet the standards that are prescribed for them,” said Dr Kaseke.
Speaking to delegates at the Matabeleland Business Economic Empowerment Forum in Victoria Falls recently, Zimbabwe Tourism Authority’s head of planning and investment promotion Mr Reason Machigere said the low uptake of the tourism fund might be due to failure by most tourism players to meet its requirements.