New players buck economic trend, join tourism sector

The tourism industry has seen the entry of more than 25 new restaurants and 17 new guesthouses in recent years despite economic challenges besetting the sector, an official has said.

BY MTHANDAZO NYONI

Zimbabwe Tourism Authority (ZTA) chief executive Karikoga Kaseke told NewsDay that while some businesses closed down in recent years due to economic challenges, there has been a notable rise in new investments into the tourism sector.

“For instance, the sector registered 28 new restaurants, 17 new guesthouses and 28 incentive travel organisers. This goes to show that the sector can actually be the catalyst for the economic turnaround of Zimbabwe given all the necessary support and enabling operating environment,” Kaseke said.

Industry officials say Harare requires about 1 000 more rooms by 2018 and at least another 1 000 by 2020. Victoria Falls requires at least 500 more rooms by 2018 and a 1 000 more rooms by 2020.

He said tourism thrives well in an economy that was stable, but the ongoing economic challenges have resulted in low disposable income for the country’s citizens, who are the nation’s potential domestic tourists.

Consequently, Kaseke said the domestic tourism suffers, as there was low propensity for the locals to engage in tourism activities.

“The liquidity cash crisis in the country has resulted in limited business both at local and international level impairing the growth of the tourism industry as both domestic and foreign tourists cannot access cash,” Kaseke said.

“The prevailing cash shortages have also resulted in damage to the country’s image. This is especially so as some countries including the UK issued travel advisories warning their citizens on the cash shortages, a move which deters potential tourists to the country.”

Furthermore, this scenario reduces tourism expenditure denying the sector the opportunity to generate the much needed foreign currency, he said.

Kaseke said tourists do not have the cash to buy curios, arts and crafts further reducing the downstream impact of tourism.

The ZTA boss said the tourism industry was affected by many taxes and licences and this was compounding in making the country’s tourism product more expensive and uncompetitive within the region.

“Tourists now prefer to stay in neighbouring countries crossing over into Zimbabwe for fewer days because of the higher costs of the destination,” he said.