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‘Political situation not affecting tourism’

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ZIMBABWE’s political situation is not a challenge to the tourism industry’s growth prospects as the country remains a safe destination, the Zimbabwe Council for Tourism (ZCT) has said.

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Speaking at a media briefing in the capital yesterday, ZCT president Francis Ngwenya said the council was working in collaboration with other stakeholders to ensure the industry becomes attractive and profitable.

“Zimbabwe is a safe destination at the moment, endorsed by the majority of embassies here. The obstacle is the perceptions created that the country is in turmoil yet it’s just political players engaging in politics,” he said.

Ngwenya said a number of pertinent issues stifling the industry’s growth would need to be addressed at a congress which will be held in the capital next week.

“There is need for immigration to strike a balance between the number of people entering the country and ensuring tourists enter the country. We believe that it should be very easy for a bona fide tourist to get a visa. This should no longer be an obstacle to growing the tourism industry,” he said.

He said the council had been lobbying for open skies as it was an issue of access for more tourists to fly into Zimbabwe, adding that the country needed to grow volumes in terms of tourism arrivals.

“The road and rail networks must be revamped for tourists to have easier access to resort areas. It’s not easy to access Kariba, for example,” he said.

ZCT will next week host a congress themed “Enabling tourism is enabling Zimbabwe’s economic growth”.

The congress will be attended by all players with a direct impact on tourism and industry with an interest in tourism. The government anticipates the sector to make a 15% contribution to the gross domestic product and for the industry to become a $5 billion industry within the next few years.

Speaking at the same event, ZCT chief executive officer Paul Matamisa said the congress would have a ministerial forum to deliberate on issues related to the industry.

“Our industry is focused on issues that bring growth. Vice President Joice Mujuru is expected to attend the congress. We will also bring in international speakers to see how far we have been working with international visitors and markets for hospitality and tourism,” he said.

Matamisa said the council had an agenda in terms of the issues it had been lobbying for.

“For tourism to make a good contribution to the economy, we must have a means to do that, so that we impact on the value chain,” he said, adding that any resolution building on that would strengthen the ZCT’s strategy.

He lambasted the numerous roadblocks on the country’s highways citing them as an impediment to tourism growth.

“People, in particular tourists, must be free to get from one place to another in the country in the shortest possible time. We have to assist not create impediments. Visitors must come in their droves,” Matamisa said.

The ZCT said there was a significant increase in volumes and occupancy especially in Victoria Falls since the beginning of the year.

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