Zimbabwe is facing challenges in implementing Memorandums of Understanding (MOUs) in the tourism sector, particularly agreements made with South Africa and China owing to anomalies in destination packaging, a government minister has said.
BY KUDZAI CHIMHANGWA
Tourism MOUs are broad areas of co-operation that countries enter into with other countries which they believe can work for the development of tourism.
Countries focus on national interests, areas which they see as lacking and areas where technical support as well as economic and capacity building can be of mutual benefit.
Tourism and Hospitality Industry minister, Walter Mzembi said he was in China three weeks ago where he met the Vice-Premier of China, Wang Yang with the aim to impress on the Republic of China that Zimbabwe was not happy with the levels of bilateral exchange in terms of tourism travel and facilitation between the two countries.
“I will be tabling a report to Cabinet to show them how we can extract value out of Chinese tourism. The Chinese are now the biggest spenders globally at US$120 billion per annum. They have the biggest travel statistic at 100 million arrivals,” Mzembi told Standardbusiness.
He said out of that, Zimbabwe’s share stood at only 5 000 arrivals in 2013 while the rest of Africa was doing much better.
“So there is an anomaly there yet we pride ourselves as the all-weather friend of China. The reason really is packaging and understanding the value of tourism and its significance in the national economy,” he said.
He said the idea would be to seek full expression of Zimbabwe’s “political bonding” with China resulting in the country doing US$10 billion tourism business per annum without mortgaging its resources.
Mzembi said the Chinese agreed not to give Zimbabwe a one-size-fits-all Approved Destination Status (ADS), and the key objective would be to escalate this ADS into a MOU where government would now ask for specific interventions.
The Chinese acknowledged that the setting up of a revolving fund was important to ensure commercial borrowings provided financing towards tourism infrastructure development.
Turning to the MOU with South Africa, Mzembi said he recently told his South African counterpart Marthinus van Schalkwyk that the operationalisation of the MOU signed in May 2013 was at a standstill.
“Out of all our MOUs, the one I’m really miffed about is the one with South Africa. Up to now our technical committees have not met and I told them that it appeared they were taking our people for granted because we have cross-border tourism traffic going there anyway so they don’t see any need to put more effort on us,” he said.
Mzembi’s remarks come after the South African government by-passed Zimbabwe to establish a tourism office in Nigeria.
“In response obviously to some of the issues I raised, he raised issues about branding Zimbabwe and that we need to adopt soft diplomacy in terms of packaging some of our laws,” he said.
He said Schalkwyk felt that Zimbabwe could be driving away investment by sounding belligerent and vociferous in the communication of its investment laws.
“Zimbabwe must drop some stereotypes around its visa openness. The country is still maintaining a strict visa regime that operates strictly on the basis of reciprocity so we need to open up a lot more if we are to benefit from South African tourism arrivals,” Mzembi said.