Zimbabwe’s tourism receipts topped $1,1 billion last year despite minimum support from Treasury, Tourism and Hospitality Industry minister Walter Mzembi has said.
BY BUSINESS REPORTER
Receipts were $827 million in 2015.
“This [increase in receipts] is happening with minimal support from Treasury. If we were investing, we would do 30% of the South African tourism economy. We should be doing $3 billion,” Mzembi said last week at the unveiling of NetOne’s support for his candidature of the UN World Tourism Organisation.
Mzembi is gunning for the secretary-general’s post alongside six other candidates, with elections taking place in May.
Mzembi said the growth in receipts did not come with increases in funding only, but encompassed other factors, including replacing roadblocks with security checkpoints and opening of the skies to increase accessibility.
Tourism operators say the increase in roadblocks on the country’s roads and highways is making Zimbabwe an unsafe destination to visit in the eyes of the tourists. It also comes at a cost as tourists are fined for spurious offences.
The minister said tourism was a low-hanging fruit and government had to invest in the sector. The ministry projected tourism receipts of $5 billion by 2020, with the sector accounting for 15% of the Gross Domestic Product.
Mzembi said the tourism pillar was the third export earner in the world in 2016 after fuel and chemicals and was contributing 10% to global GDP.
“In 1950, there were 25 million tourists. In 2016, there were 1,2 billion tourists. Tourism should be the painkiller for the economy,” he said.
Mzembi is the current longest serving African Tourism minister and he said he was confident of landing the secretary-general’s post of the UNWTO and succeed Jordanian Taleb Rifai.
Recently, Mzembi criticised the US travel ban on seven Muslim countries. Mzembi said the ban was a threat to the tourism industry.
“My business as a sector leader is to give counsel where we feel that the industry is threatened and undermined,” he said.