In terms of natural attractiveness Zimbabwe can hold its own and compete favourably against the major tourist destinations in the world. But, major issues around the tourism product in Zimbabwe such as the liquidity crunch in the economy, perception management, marketing development and promotion, have to be addressed to give the product an added advantage over competitors.
Zimbabwe Tourism Authority celebrity host programmes and the country’s co-hosting of the United Nations World Tourism Organisation general assembly, with Zambia in August last year worked wonders for the country’s perception management but we need to seriously recapitalise, refurbish and develop new products and facilities.
In 2009 the Government through two statutory instruments, introduced duty-free importation of capital equipment in order to support the expansion and modernisation of hotels, and suspension of customs duty on motor vehicles imported by tourism operators in order to replace the old fleet.
The two statutory instruments died a natural death at the end of our hosting of the UNWTO general assembly.
The reintroduction, this year, of the two statutory instruments by Finance Minister Patrick Chinamasa at the instigation and insistence of the Tourism and Hospitality Industry Minister Walter Mzembi, is sweet news for 2014.
The re-introduction, alone, is the Government’s highest direct policy commitment in re-tooling, re-kitting and recapitalising the tourism and hospitality industry.
It is great.
The two instruments make our imports easy and affordable, and overally leave a little more in our depleted pockets by exempting us from tax payment. That is critical in cushioning the industry.
However, the industry being served should act responsibly by religiously following laid down procedure rather than circumventing it.
While Minister Mzembi and his team must be lauded for taking a crucial policy direction in the interest of the industry, the implementing authority, the Zimbabwe Tourism Authority, should ensure that there is zero tolerance to corruption and abuse of the statutory instruments by witty stakeholders. In fact, the industry should religiously adhere to the rules, without excuse.
Naturally, there are those in the industry who thrive on trickery and abuse of systems and at the end spoil the broth for everyone. Fetid!
No amount of cosmetic can beautify a frog. It is ugly. Corruption and abuse of these statutory instruments is filthy and ugly.
It should be outrightly condemned with the contempt it deserves. In the past there has been rumour of abuse and manipulation that almost eroded the chances of these statutory instruments being re-introduced.
Zimbabwe is ours, the industry is ours and the statutory instruments were reintroduced for us. The ball is now in our court. How we use or abuse them will determine the future. We risk being our worst enemies, through our activities. Let us be responsible!