THE Ministry of Environment and Tourism has given hotels and other tourist service providers six months to comply with a new grading system introduced last week.
According to Statutory Instrument 128 of 2005 on Tourism (Designated Tourist Facilities (Grading and Standard Regulations, 2005)) released last week, tourism facilities must apply for grading under the new system within the next six months.
“Designated tourist facilities, whether graded or not at the time of promulgation of these regulations, must apply for regrading or grading within a period of six months,” say the regulations. Hotels that fail to comply with the new grading system face a fine or six months in prison for their proprietors.
“Any person who contravenes subsections 1 (dealing with applications for grading within six months) shall be guilty of an offence and liable to a fine not exceeding level five ($200 000) or to imprisonment for a period not exceeding six months or to both such fine and such imprisonment,” says the instrument.
The new grades which are likely to come into effect in January will last for two years or “until reviewed for whatever reason”.
The regulations state that after significant renovation, a designated institution may consider regrading. A grade review may also be done if there are frequent complaints against designated tourist facilities.
Hotels will be graded against a five-star index while lodges will be graded from a standard, comfortable and luxury. The legislation defines a one-star or standard level hotel as a small-scale unit with basic structures, simple but adequate quality furniture and serviceable equipment.
A five-star facility is defined as a de luxe establishment with “well appointed” features of high international standard – “furniture, fittings, and decoration of excellent workmanship and taste, high level and extensive variety of top quality services with luxurious facilities in all aspects and top comfort for guests”.
Last year the Zimbabwe Tourism Authority reportedly shortlisted at least four hotels for downgrading because of a decline in standards. The hotels were expected to lose a star each but the move was shelved pending the new policy guideline on the grading system.
The legislation will result in the creation of a grading team, which should consist of two quality assurance executives from the authority, and one person representing the appropriate local authority.
The team should also include at least one person from the tourism industry chosen by the authority.
“A designated tourist facility shall retain its original grade until a decision has been taken concerning its application,” the new regulations state.
The move to re-rate hotels, lodges and other tourism facilities, are part of government measures to improve service in the sector, hit by massive declines since government embarked on its land reforms.
The sector has also declined on the back of hostile coverage of Zimbabwe, as a tourist destination – depriving the economy US$6 billion in potential earnings annually.