By Khanyile Mlotshwa
ZIMBABWE’S Minister of Tourism and Hospitality Industry, Priscah Mupfumira, has told potential tourists in Germany that despite challenges ‘virgin’ Zimbabwe is open for business and they should come and “taste the pudding”.
The minister was speaking at the ITB Berlin tourism conference (Internationale Tourismus-Börse Berlin) on Thursday.
“I must admit that Zimbabwe has lagged behind in many areas as a result of the global isolation for the past 16 to 18 years due to the errors of the past,” she said.
“This undeniably has left Zimbabwe’s once-rich sectors in complete state of disrepair and disarray. To mention one example, the tourism industry used to receive a contribution of more than 30% from the overseas market in the 1990s when tourism was at its peak and this contribution have since dropped to less than 15% of the international arrivals into Zimbabwe.”
The ITB Berlin is a leading world tourism fair taking place annually in March where diverse tourism players meet including hotels, tourist boards, tour operators, system providers, airlines and car rental companies.
The Zimbabwean minister said “Zimbabwe is a Greenfield, a virgin economy.”
“If an area is a virgin, many people would want to go there,” she said.
“So I encourage every one of you to come and taste the pudding.”
Mupfumira said her government has made strides in creating a conducive environment for tourism in Zimbabwe.
“To support the sustenance of the tourism industry, the government commits itself to offering tourism investment incentives such as duty exemptions and rebates on capital goods for tourism development zones as well as the provision of the tourism fund,” she said.
“We have also addressed such critical issues as the numerous roadblocks that had become a menace not to our visitors but to the domestic market alike.
“Of course there is an issue of road infrastructure, which the Government has prioritised and major roads are receiving urgent and priority attention. The government has also reviewed the visa regime with 29 countries upgraded from Category C to Category B which
facilitates the attaining of visas at the port of entry.”
The minister also said the government was improving the tourism sector in the context of a larger programme of developing all sectors of the economy.
“Zimbabwe is to this effect presenting varied opportunities in various sectors such as mining, agriculture, health, aviation, manufacturing, water and most importantly in the tourism industry,” she said.
“Opportunities have been unlocked in the Special Economic Zones and Trans-frontier Conservation Areas which will see the development of hotel and catering industry, safari and tour operations, gaming and construction of international conventions among other developments.”