GOVERNMENT is in the process of addressing the duplication of regulatory requirements from various government agencies which are impacting negatively on the tourism sector, a government official has said.
BY TARISAI MANDIZHA
Speaking at “the ease of doing business in the tourism and enablers sectors” workshop in Harare last week, chief secretary to the President and Cabinet Misheck Sibanda said government had for the past 12 months been implementing the ease of doing business reforms geared at addressing the various legislative and regulatory bottlenecks that were affecting the investment climate in Zimbabwe.
“Similarly, the tourism and enabling sectors also have challenges in terms of high regulations. In this area, empirical evidence reveals that operating licences are not considered a major issue in the tourism sector. The challenge, he said, was the cumbersome procedures that involved the duplication of regulatory requirements from various government agencies, for instance the health inspection and EMA [Environmental Management Agency] processes,” Sibanda said.
He said the EMA development approval fees were considered to be the most prohibitive in the sector.
Sibanda said it was incumbent upon the sector to work with government on how to harmonise and streamline the different and multiple fees and charges levied on the players.
“Another example that is being cited as prohibitive is the charging of TV/radio licences per room/set regardless of occupancy, which will be passed on the consumers of tourism products in the form of high prices,” he said.
The tourism sector provides the quickest turnaround solutions ahead of other sectors of the economy. But the sector has had to navigate through a host of challenges in order to stay afloat. The sector is still smarting from the 15% value added tax on accommodation for foreigners which has made Zimbabwe an uncompetitive destination.
The many roadblocks on the country’s roads and highways have also affected the growth of the industry with operators reporting that tourists were cutting down on the number of nights having lost money on traffic fines.
Despite these challenges, government projects the sector would grow.
Under the 5:5:15:2020 model, Zimbabwe aims to have five million arrivals, generate $5 billion from tourism and for tourism to contribute 15% to the gross domestic product by 2020.
Sibanda said to achieve the $5 billion revenue target, a cocktail of measures had already been put in place that included, among others, the crafting of a national tourism policy to ensure that tourism growth was guided by a robust enabling framework.
He said government was identifying more growth opportunities through the national tourism master plan which was currently being finalised.
“Despite a lot of effort having been invested by the government in the tourism and enabling sectors since independence, in terms of for instance improving accessibility of destination, image building, human skills and knowledge development and other regulatory measures, a lot still needs to be done to restore the country’s attractiveness and competitiveness.
“A multi-pronged and robustly implementable strategy has to be put in place to accelerate the consumption and development of tourism products and services,” Sibanda said.
According to the Zimbabwe Tourism Authority (ZTA) first quarter report, tourist arrivals rose to 450 572 from 387 557 recorded during the same period last year. The increase in the numbers was recorded in arrivals from all the source markets except the Oceania.
The ZTA report showed that not all tourists ended up in hotels as the bulk of them from mainland Africa resorted “to very cheap sources of accommodation in lodges as well as friends and relatives”.
According to the report, arrivals from mainland Africa increased by 11% to 380 790 from 343 644 in 2015. Most African countries, with the exception of South Africa, Zambia, DRC and Tanzania, recorded increases during the quarter under review.