The Sunday News
Leonard Ncube, Victoria Falls Reporter
THE Ministry of Environment, Climate, Tourism and Hospitality Industry is working on coming up with a risk package for the tourism industry, in an effort to make sure the sector is well prepared to receive travellers post-lockdown.
The tourism sector was the hardest hit by the Covid-19 pandemic which led to international travel restrictions and closure of business. The Government last year came up with a $500 million tourism stimulus package whose aim was to bail out the industry as a way of sustaining it during the lockdown especially covering overhead costs.
The package has, however, remained elusive with financial institutions, which were supposed to avail the fund, believed to be uninterested in financing operators without prior commitment by Government. Tourism Minister Nqobizitha Mangaliso Ndlovu said the Government was engaging banks over the issue.
In an interview in Victoria Falls on the sidelines of a ceremony to celebrate Matetsi Victoria Falls Luxury Lodge’s five-year anniversary last week, Minister Ndlovu said with the economy slowly reopening, there is a need to capacitate the industry to be ready to welcome travellers.
He said there is a risk of tourists choosing to go elsewhere where the industry will be fully prepared if the local tourism is not capacitated. Minister Ndlovu said he had engaged Finance and Economic Development Minister Professor Mthuli Ncube who is deliberating on the issue.
“From a Government point of view, we really have to come up with a robust risk package for the sector. I have spoken to the Minister of Finance and he has promised to look into it and we will make an announcement in a very short space of time. I may not disclose in detail what we agreed on but he is very receptive of the request that I made especially looking at the point that we find ourselves in,” said Minister Ndlovu.
He said the economy was slowly reopening on the background of a successful vaccination programme which has seen more than 2 million people being vaccinated.
Victoria Falls was the first city to reach herd immunity. Minister Ndlovu said that enhanced confidence in the local industry.
“We may not be having lockdowns any time soon, so we therefore, need to be careful to support the sector to quickly resume before they lose market to competitors. We are operating in a globally competitive market and we have tourists who want to travel and they might go to the most ready destination. So we want to make sure they find our players ready to receive them through the mechanisms we put,” he said.
He paid gratitude to President Mnangagwa for partly lifting lockdown restrictions but implored the industry to continue acting responsibly as the pandemic is still there.