GOVERNMENT needs to “fix its system” to ensure that it works good enough to attract investment and sell the Zimbabwe story if they are to register any economic growth targets laid out in any of its economic blueprints and policies. The economy is currently going through a mild recession but industry players believe that Government needs to make bold decisions which will address some of the issues if the economy is to recover. This includes aligning some of the laws to suit the current environment and ostensibly dealing with corruption. The country also has poor infrastructure.
Among critical areas of the country’s worn out and insufficient infrastructure are trunk roads, fixed telecommunication network, water and sanitation facilities, power transmission and distribution lines, power generation stations and the national railway system.
The institutions responsible for these key enablers such as Air Zimbabwe, TelOne, Zimbabwe National Water Authority, Zesa Holdings, and National Railways of Zimbabwe have not been able to discharge their mandates to expectations.
Failure to address challenges in these key enablers of the economy, which is normally the primary responsibility of Government, has added to the catalogue of factors investors avoid Zimbabwe.
Contributing to a tourism industry workshop last week, African Sun chief executive Dr Shingi Munyeza said for Government to attain its US$5 billion target for the sector by 2018, they needed to fix their system.
“Government needs to fix what’s not working. It should get the rail going, fix the roads, the airports, lay the fibre and get the communication trunks sorted out and sort out the difficult visa regimes,” Dr Munyeza said.
He added that Government also needed to get the satellite account working “so that we are not suspicious of one another. Some of these things are within their reach.”
Mr Wengayi Nhau, a tour operator, noted that Zimbabwe was not enforcing its laws especially concerning tourists from South Africa who come with their guides.
“The law says even if they are in the country for a few hours they should be accompanied by a local tourist guide. However, this is not happening.”
Mr Nhau also said corruption was also rife particularly in the hunting industry and this was not limited to the players within the sector
but sometimes top government officials are involved.
The tourism players were agreed that demand was coming after the country was judged a top destination in various international publications including Financial Times.
“Demand is coming we are on the edge of it. But that means we have to work hard and be prepared for the return. ”
The meeting, hosted by Tourism Minister Walter Mzembi was told the country had signed agreements with Qatar Airlines and Turkish Airlines which would see the airlines start flying into the country.
However, tourism players said this would be a hard sell considering that Zimbabwe under its classifications had a stricter visa regime for travellers from such countries.
A representative from British Airways said the country needed to consider reducing its landing and handling fees for planes as this made Zimbabwe an expensive destination.
“Zimbabwe’s fees are the highest in the region and its fuel charges are 25 percent higher, ” said the BA representative.
Other players in the sector also called on Government to open its skies by licensing private players to operate on busy routes such as Harare-Vic Falls.
Minister Mzembi said he was going to lobby that Government drops the 15 percent VAT on the tourism sector as this would make the country lose business.
Zimbabwe recorded a 2 percent growth in tourist arrivals to 1,83 million from 1,79 million in 2012 while tourism receipts amounted to US$851 million.
According to stats from ZTA, the majority of the arrivals are low value tourists from Mainland Africa at 1 570 799 or 86 percent with over a third of them (592 303) transit tourists.
According to analysts at the current growth rate, Zimbabwe will only get to US$1,65 billion receipts in 2018 and not US$5 billion.