- Since assuming office what is your vision and strategy for the tourism sector and how far have you gone in achieving objectives in the first 100 days in the new dispensation
Since my assumption of office, I have realised that the sector was without a Sector Strategy since 1980. This made it difficult for us to champion and lead a sector position that can be taken aboard by all players and stakeholders of the tourism industry. To that effect, my first task was to come up with a National Tourism Sector Strategy in the first 100 days of the new dispensation. This strategy speaks to tourism sector planning, development, and to that effect formulates a rallying point for the entire sector. This gives us one point of focus towards tourism growth and community development, improvement of livelihoods, infrastructure development, foreign direct investment and environmental perseveration through tourism different initiatives. The crafting of this National Tourism Sector Strategy involved stakeholder consultations from the country’s provinces, so what we came up with are views from the people in order to chart a common vision for the sector. The underlying vision is not my vision, but a vision for the sector. My job is only to cascade the vision and to make sure that the vision is realised. From the National Tourism Sector Strategy, the vision of the sector is,
“to be a vibrant, sustainable and diversified tourism economy that contributes to the transformation of Zimbabwe into a middle income country by 2030”.
This Strategy will answer to this vision by addressing the seven thematic pillars that are critical to the growth of the sector, that is;
- Environmental sustainability
- Destination management
- Product development
- Effective marketing
- Tourism facilitation and access
- ICT, and
- Human Capital development
The National Tourism Sector Strategy document has been finalised and will soon be submitted for Cabinet Approval. We are targeting to launch the National Tourism Sector Strategy during the second 100 days Cycle. From thereon we will operationalise the structures that will drive the implementation of this strategy from district to provincial levels through our already existing Government and private sector structures.
Secondly, we are finalising the Domestic and Outbound Tourism Survey which provides the necessary data to initiate the country’s first ever Tourism Satellite Account System (TSA). A tool which has been adopted globally through the United Nations World Tourism Organisation (UNWTO), and is critical in measuring tourism’s actual contribution to GDP by tracking the contribution of tourism in the country’s major sectors such as agriculture, infrastructure development, and others. let me also hasten to say that for us this is a major development as the country has been lagging behind (regionally) in the development of the TSA for quite a long time now
Thirdly, My Ministry is also focusing on developing Domestic Tourism Recently, l tasked my Ministry officials and the Zimbabwe Tourism Authority to drive the Tourism Brand in the local market. My thinking is that the tourism products in our midst, cannot be enjoyed by foreigners whilst our people have not had the chance to visit or experience their own tourism products. I am happy that, the ZTA is driving a hashtag, ZimNandi, aimed on promoting a culture of local holiday travels targeting ordinary Zimbabweans. The Tourism Team recently featured on the popular Mai Chisamba Show on 11 April 2018 to discuss on domestic tourism. The Talk Show raised important issues and ideas that my Team will now address and focus on, in their quest to improve the Domestic Tourism Campaign among locals.
To capture domestic interest from grassroots level right up to the top, the Ministry has launched a Domestic Tourism Campaign meant to create a culture of travelling among Zimbabweans, create employment and enable people to take care of their environment for sustainability. Domestic Tourism is a pillar that sustains tourism as international tourists are seasonal and can be greatly affected by negative destination image and other events beyond our control.
The domestic initiatives are interfacing with Zimbabweans across all sectors of the economy, both informal and formal. Moving with the modern communication trends of digital world, the use of social media has been a major highlight of the campaign, through active participation on Facebook, Instagram, Twitter and various WhatsApp platforms. As an awareness tool, these skits have also demystified the notion that tourism is an elitist activity and that one has to pay enormous amounts of money to experience Zimbabwe. Pursuant to that, we are rolling out a historical tourism program to enshrine liberation war sites such as Gonakudzingwa, Chinhoyi Battle Site, Shangani Battle Site, Old Bulawayo, among others, to ensure we immortalise our history and develop these sites into tourist attractions. These Programmes were running under the first 100 day programme and are being carried over into the second phase of the 100 day Cycle
(2) With regards to the country’s poor competitiveness as a high cost destination, what measures are you taking to mitigate cost drivers in the sector to improve on international arrivals
I acknowledge that currently we are an expensive destination because of a lot of factors that influence our pricing, of which government is currently working on and results will slowly begin to indicate positive changes. The high cost of our product is basically due to the the multi currency system, where the US dollar is used as the reference currency. This has created a lot of pricing distortions and inefficiencies within the whole economy, fuelled by hyper inflation mentalities within the economy over the years prior to dollarisation. The Government has made strides to mitigate cost drivers through the adoption of the ease of doing business approach to curtail some of the inherent speculative tendencies born out of the hyper inflation mentality within the economy. The Tourism Sector has also negotiated a deal with the RBZ to reduce the price of capital through the availing of tourism related loan facility with an interest rate of 7,5%. To date, there has been a review of the pricing of various operational licences to reduce the cost of doing business. When it comes to food, we are establishing cross cutting linkages with the Agricultural Sector and advocating the use of locally-grown food in the hospitality sector. The process, however, will take a period of time to fully yield results as it involves a whole Government approach to reduce the cost of doing business.
(3) The RBZ Governor challenged the tourism sector to contribute 20% to GDP in the midterm, is it achievable?
Yes it is possible, the RBZ is also working from the background of the 15 Million Dollars RBZ Tourism Facility Fund (revolving) earmarked for building capacity in the sector. Furthermore, the projections spelt out in the recently concluded National Tourism Sector Strategy indicate that the sector is set to contribute about US$3,2 billion in export receipts by 2021. The improvement in destination branding and perception at a global level will drive tourist arrivals to greater heights. To add to that, the reengagement drive adopted in this new dispensation will also yield positive results for the sector. The sector has been on a growth path, the country received a total of 2,422,930 tourist arrivals in the year 2017, which represents a 12% increase from the 2,167,686 tourists received in 2016. In Victoria Falls, industry players have confirmed that arrivals indicate that 2017 had been the best year since 1998 in terms of arrivals.
Occupancies for January 2018 also indicate a 22% increase, making it the second best occupancies for the same month in 25years. Equally, in the month of February 2018, occupancies were up 24% making it the best February occupancies in 25 years. Overally, revenue in Victoria Falls is up by 20% and 18 new properties have been developed among them, Zambezi Island Lodge, The River Brewery, The Old Drift Lodge, The Great Plains Lodge, Nguni Boutique Lodge, Mbano Manor Lodge. Ilala Lodge has added 18 additional rooms and other properties such as the Victoria Falls Safari Club have been newly refurbished. Zimbabwe is poised for an unprecedented growth of tourism given the prevailing goodwill and interest in the different markets and the tourism sector will undoubtedly be a key pillar for the economic growth of the national economy. These statistics prove that the projections by the RBZ are possible as the sector is a low hanging fruit and continues to grow.
(4) What is your biggest challenge to achieving your objectives at both decision-making and industry levels?
I personally do not believe in challenges and rather prefer taking every responsibility head on until l achieve the desired results. Ever since l assumed office as the new Minister of Tourism and Hospitality Industry, l have tackled each and every task, activity and responsibility through collaborative efforts and engaging all relevant stakeholders. I believe in the power of Teamwork and Andrew Carnegie’s quote which says, “Teamwork is the ability to work together towards a common vision. The ability to direct individual accomplishments toward organisational objectives. It is the fuel that allows common people to attain uncommon results.”
(5) What is the Zimbabwe brand all about? How are we trying to market it to source markets, airlines and to locals?
The Tourism Brand, “Zimbabwe, A World of Wonders” is anchored on seven unique pillars that are key markers in positioning Zimbabwe as Africa’s prime tourism destination. The seven unique selling points are:
- Wonderful people and culture,
- Rich history and heritage,
- Great Zimbabwe, The Grand Medieval Palace,
- The Majestic Victoria Falls,
- Pristine Wildlife and Nature,
- The Mystique of the Eastern Highlands, and
- The Mythical Lake Kariba and the Mighty Zambezi
Zimbabwe successfully rebranded the destination in 2010 from the previous position statement, Africa’s Paradise. The brand was activated in the domestic market and various source markets such as South Africa, United Kingdom, Germany, Russia, Brazil, Spain, China, among others
As the Minister of Tourism and Hospitality Industry, l have been busy engaging with regional and international markets as well as the Zimbabwean Diaspora, articulating the new Government’s “Zimbabwe is open for business” mantra. This approach is in line with our engagement program complimenting efforts at national level by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and International Trade.
According to the UNWTO, the world’s outbound tourists in 2017 was 1.322 billion travellers. The UNWTO forecast global arrivals to reach 1.8 billion by 2030. As such, I have been on a global charm offensive attracting attention at major travel fairs such as FITUR, Spain, Internationale Tourismus Bourse (ITB), Germany, World Travel Market (WTM), United Kingdom, Tourism Indaba, South Africa, and Arabian Travel Market (ATM), inter alia. Our attendance and participation at these tourism fairs and travel exhibitions and others, are premised on the need to re-position Brand Zimbabwe in lucrative source markets in order to increase our destination visibility and awareness.
The Zimbabwean Brand has also been promoted by airlines such as Air Zimbabwe, South African Airways, Kenyan Airline and British Airways. Further, we are working with other countries to advance our bilateral relations through negotiating and signing Memonda of Understanding (MoUs) on Cooperation in the field of Tourism, focusing on key areas that we need to work together with such countries to the benefit our citizens. We are also working on promoting regional integration through the Regional Tourism Organisation of Southern Africa (RETOSA) and at an international level through the United Nations World Tourism Organisation (UNWTO) Commission for Africa.