Roberta Katunga, Senior Business Reporter
TREASURY has been requested to allocate an additional $5 million to the Zimbabwe Tourism Authority to reverse the decrease in growth of destination markets and beat regional competitors.
According to a report by the Parliamentary Portfolio Committee on Environment, Water, Tourism and Hospitality Industry, the ZTA is being outcompeted in destination market penetration by regional competitors especially South Africa.
The report noted that South Africa attracted 794 073 European arrivals compared to Zimbabwe’s 107 108 in 2015 while last year the gap widened where South Africa recorded 920 706 arrivals against 97 383 for Zimbabwe.
“Tourism has been identified as the most strategic activity in economic development; however, the Ministry received the least allocation for 2017. There is a need for a paradigm shift in funding development programmes, the Government must allocate more resources to sectors that are driving economic growth,” said the committee headed by Mr Wonder Mashange (Rushinga MP).
The committee said funding of tourism must be increased in line with other Sub-Saharan Africa countries as it was not a capital intensive sector and therefore requires less funds compared to capital intensive sectors.
The Ministry of Tourism and Hospitality Industry budget allocation decreased by 7.5 percent from $2 892 000 in 2016 to $2 674 000 for 2017.
“Funding tourism should be increasing rather than decreasing if ever tourism is considered as one of the key contributors to economic development. The benefits of tourism are quick compared to heavy manufacturing industries. In Sadc, tourism contributes an average of four percent to GDP and average growth rate of the sector is two percent.
By 2025 these figures will be eight and five respectively. The country must be seen moving towards these regional targets,” the Committee said.
The Committee recommended that the Minister of Finance, Cde Patrick Chinamasa, must ensure that resources are availed for the establishment of a fully furnished Zimbabwe stand at crucial shows to increase the country’s image branding, destination marketing and promotion.
The country has been outcompeted in the past years by countries like Swaziland, Lesotho, Zambia and Kenya both in China and Berlin travel shows.
Figures from the ZTA showed a decrease in tourist arrivals from key European markets of nine percent while those from Africa fell by three percent showing that the source market is dwindling instead of growing. Africa is the country’s major source market with last year’s arrivals constituting 86.9 percent of total tourist arrivals.
Employers Association of Tourism and Safari Operators president Mr Clement Mukwasi said there was no industry in the world that can work independent of the Government and succeed.
“The tourism industry looks up to the Ministry of Tourism and Hospitality Industry and the ZTA as the torch bearers of Zimbabwe. The marketing that the private sector does is led by the Minister and the ZTA. If these are disabled from marketing due to inadequate funding, that has a direct effect on arrivals of tourists in the whole country and it results in a very serious prejudice to us as operators,” he said.
Mr Mukwasi said the marketing trips done by the private sector are always in conjunction with the ministry and ZTA. Mr Mukwasi said the Government had invested a lot in upgrading infrastructure that benefits the industry hence the importance of taking up the marketing grid to the levels of other countries that Zimbabwe competes with or complements the country’s services like what Zambia, South Africa and Botswana do.
“We cannot afford to create a hole that will be difficult to fill hence the need to fund this sector which is a major pillar in the economy together with agriculture and mining. Tourism sector growth should not be retarded due to lack of funding,” said Mr Mukwasi.
The growth forecast of 1.7 percent for 2017 is attributed to the success of agriculture and tourism among other service sectors in the economy.