Wilson Dakwa, Business Reporter
THE weakening of the United States dollar against the South African rand has contributed to an increase in the number of tourists from the neighbouring country into Zimbabwe.
Employers’ Association of Tourism and Safari Operators president Mr Clement Mukwasi said there has been a marked improvement in tourist arrivals from the region mostly from South Africa largely due to the strengthening of the rand against the US dollar.
He said the rise in tourist arrivals from the region calls for the Government to expedite its road network rehabilitation since most of the travellers use road transport.
“The decline in the cross rate between the rand and the US dollar has resulted in Zimbabwe becoming a cheaper destination for South Africans.
International visitors have constituted most of the country’s tourist arrivals while locals have only contributed about 10 percent.
“About 20 percent of Zimbabwe’s arrivals are from within the region, with South Africa dominating the arrivals. Most of the South African tourists come here by road, hence, we need to fast track the rehabilitation of our road network,” said Mr Mukwasi.
Last week the rand advanced to a three-month high against the dollar. The South African currency gained 0,1 percent to R13,0820 per dollar on Monday, the strongest level since September 12 on a closing basis. Against the euro, it approached a five-month high and was at 15,3859.
By Friday the exchange rate of the US dollar to the ZAR stood at $1:12,756403
Mr Mukwasi said tourism and hospitality players should work on increasing their bedding so as to ensure sufficient accommodation facilities.
“The Victoria Falls carnival which is set for the New Year’s Eve is attracting a whole journal of tourists both locally and internationally. Given that most hotels and lodges are fully booked until the first week of January, accommodation is limited and this shows that there is need for more hotels and lodges.
“The Government has set the right tone for investment and this translates to us receiving more arrivals. Government has also been contributing towards infrastructure development by refurbishing and renovating airports in the country although the private sector’s contribution has unfortunately not been at par,” he said.
Mr Mukwasi said the Government should consider relaxing part of its licensing restrictions and work on establishing a One-Stop Shop facility for tourism players so as to promote convenience and growth of the sector.
“Licensing and permit procedures need to be relaxed because it is quite difficult for one to procure a licence in the tourism industry. As tourism and safari operators we also call for the establishment of a One-Stop Shop were we will be able to apply for licences and permits easily,” he said.
The general requirements for all tourism operator licence categories include a bank statement or letter from a Bank, Public Liability Insurance (minimum $5 000), brochure or promotional material, copy of Certificate of Incorporation, CR 14, certified copy of balance sheet or statement of capital, value of investment, copy Identification Document of directors, photographs, details of provision for disabled (where applicable).
Mr Mukwasi applauded the Government’s efforts to capacitate tourism players through offering duty exemption on capital goods and importation of safari operators’ motor vehicles.
Presenting the 2018 National Budget proposals, Finance and Economic Development Minister Patrick Chinamasa said the Government extended the rebate of duty on capital goods imported by tourism operators for a period of two years with effect from 1 January 2016.
The Government also suspended the duty facility on motor vehicles imported by approved safari operators in a bid to replace ageing fleet. The 2018 budget proposed the renewal of the facility for the next two years beginning 1 January 2018.