The tourism industry has done its part in meeting the bulk of the costs for the Sanganai/Hlanganani travel expo and is urging government to pick the remainder of the bill, an executive has said.
BY MTHANDAZO NYONI
This year’s edition, which is supposed to run from June 16 to 18, hangs in the balance as government has not released the $450 000 required to prepare for the tourism fair.
Zimbabwe Tourism Authority (ZTA) chief executive officer Karikoga Kaseke told Standardbusiness that there was no way the sector could sponsor everything.
“They have done their part, for example providing accommodation for buyers and international media. It has been doing that since the inception of the fair. However, everything can’t be done by the sector. It’s not fair. Like now, 60% of the budget has been paid by the sector. In other words, the sector is sponsoring the greater part of the fair,” he said.
He said there was need to buy tickets for buyers as well as for international media, and as such the government needed to chip in.
His remarks come as analysts said the tourism sector was run by the private sector which had the responsibility to make sure the industry was viable by marketing it through such fairs.
“The private sector hotel groups, the safari operators and wildlife conservationists, even the state-owned Rainbow Group, should not be waiting for the ZTA to act and their responses to any challenge to market themselves should not be limited by the lack of capacity in any government body,” said economist John Robertson.
“Working together, the industry players have all the talent needed to stage an impressive event without any reference to the ZTA.”
Robertson said many business sector organisations even questioned the need for a body such as the ZTA, knowing that it was created as a regulatory and marketing authority and imposed on an industry that was self-regulating and efficiently marketing the country long before the ZTA was created.
“With the ZTA incapacitated by the government’s serious lack of resources, now is the time for the private sector to take all the necessary initiatives to demonstrate its ability to stage a successful event without any help from any government body,” he said.
Robertson said it was unfortunate that government had created an impression that its participation was essential for anything to work.
“Government will, of course, do its best to sustain that belief, as it helps them to justify the fees, levies and additions to VAT [value-added-tax] that are needed to pay ZTA staff and the rent on their offices. As these additional costs have to be recovered from tourists, or deducted from the already reduced profits of the companies, they can probably be shown to have been more damaging than helpful to tourist revenues.”
However, other economic analysts believe that government should play a major role in making sure that such events are well-funded.
Reginald Shoko, a Bulawayo-based economic analyst said government should own up and pay for the event for the benefit of the economy.
He said tourism was currently the biggest contributor to Zimbabwe’s gross domestic product and failure to support it would be tantamount to killing a “goose that lays the golden egg”.
“The event provides Zimbabwe with the opportunity to present itself to investors. It’s pretty unfortunate that the government hasn’t paid but I believe it will. It would be a disaster if that does not happen,” he said.
Another economic analyst who preferred anonymity said the fact that the government was charging more levies and VAT from the sector meant it was supposed to fund the indaba to grow the sector.
“In as much as the tourism sector is being run by the private sector, I believe the government has a role to play because the sector has become its cash cow. In 2015, the government introduced 15% VAT on foreign accommodation and the industry cried foul but government wouldn’t be moved. Therefore, they should fund such events to grow the cake,” the analyst said.