By Farai Matebvu
The government has given the Zimbabwe Tourism Authority [ZTA] a $20 000 grant to help revive publicity associations across the country and promote domestic tourism.
ZTA executive director (domestic tourism and strategic research) Sophia Zirebwa told a recent tourism capacity building indaba in Harare that the revival of the publicity associations would also encourage foreigners to visit Zimbabwe.
“Our domestic tourism is very, very low, if not insignificant,” she said.
“Our quest is to promote it through availing resources and mobilising all critical players to develop the sector, which contributes fundamentally to the gross domestic product of our economy through increased earnings” Zirebwi said.
Zirebwi said while the fund appeared small, it marked a new beginning in the tourism sector.
“In other countries, especially those that are thriving to grow, tourism is well funded because it is an engine that drives all other engines of the economy,” she said.
“For us to grow this sector we need to collaborate with key state and non-state actors like publicity associations, which are largely working with private players and local authorities.
“We intend, in collaboration with publicity associations, to develop supportive infrastructure, information centres and embrace digital technologies across the tourism sector, to connect Zimbabwe and its cultural products to the whole world.”
Kariba Publicity Association information officer Laiton Kandiwire said while the grant was a welcome development for the industry, it was political interference and polarisation that had hampered associations’ operating environment.
“Our plea to government is that it must create a conducive environment for us to work with it and all political players for the development of the country, not vice versa,” she said.
“In the past, we have had politicians trying to establish themselves by way of abusing the existence of tourism associations thereby neutralising their effectiveness.”
Zvishavane Publicity Association chairperson Rejoice Chishamba encouraged government to increase the funding in the next round.
“We have poor infrastructure at most arrival checkpoints and information about our country’s cultural products is scarce,” she said.
“The business community, especially the extractive industry, must assist government to come up with a Tourism Development Fund, which must be used to develop infrastructure for both domestic and international tourism.
“Information access must be timely, accurate and impartial to visitors as it enhances the ease of doing business philosophy.
“This must enhance the visitor experience by providing exceptional customer service, effectively promoting the range of visitor experiences.”
Zimbabwe’s foreign tourist arrivals used to account for 35% annually in the 1990s, but this has since fallen to less than 10%.