BULAWAYO registered a significant growth in its tourism industry this year riding on increased marketing by players in the sector and the Government.
In an interview last week, a representative of the tourism sector in Bulawayo, Mr Sikhawuliso Sibanda, who is also the director for Silwane Tours and Safaris said the local hospitality industry has recorded massive growth in tourist arrivals.
The Zimbabwe Tourism Authority (ZTA), Bulawayo City Council, local players in the hospitality industry as well as the Government have been driving massive marketing campaigns to promote destination Bulawayo and its surroundings.
Platforms such as Meetings, Incentives, Conferences and Exhibitions (MICE), familiarisation tours as well as Sanganai/Hlanganani World Tourism Fair, an annual event held in Bulawayo, have all paid dividends in marketing the city as a destination of choice.
In July this year, Silwane Tours and Safaris and BCC organised familiarisation tours in which different stakeholders within the local tourism industry participated with a view to enhancing collective marketing of the destination.
“Ever since July when we did the familiarisation tours, we have recorded quite a number of visitors who were normally locked in hotels.
“This time around the hoteliers are selling packages to tourists visiting their hotels to also visit places such as Khami Ruins, museums and Matobo among others, during their stay in the city,” he said.
Mr Sibanda said under the “Zimbabwe is open for business’ mantra, the tourism industry in Bulawayo was poised for massive growth on the back of aggressive marketing and synergies among the local tourism players.
“We have taken every opportunity as hospitality people to offer what we have in various forums and thus in every forum that we conduct, we get a chance to tell tourists to visit attraction sites in Bulawayo,” he said.
Going into next year, Mr Sibanda said tourism players in Bulawayo would continue engaging each other with a view to collectively enhance the growth of the tourism industry.
“By working together as tourism players in the city, we are packaging Bulawayo as a tourism destination. For example, next year I will be attending international forums such as the ITB in Berlin selling Bulawayo.
“At the upcoming tourism indaba in Berlin, I have to talk about what our museums and parks are offering and thus all the local players will be represented by me,” he said.
“And it’s equally the same to those (local tourism players) who will be attending other forums where I’m not going.”
Government recognises the tourism industry as one of Zimbabwe’s economic mainstays with a significant impact on the Gross Domestic Product.
In the 2019 national budget, Finance and Economic Development Minister Professor Mthuli Ncube proposed to extend suspension of duty on 75 new buses of a carrying capacity of eight to 55 passengers, including the driver.
The facility would be availed for a period of 12 months starting January 1, 2019. Commenting on the tourism vehicle scheme, Mr Sibanda said:
“Looking at that facility, it favours certain people (those who have already made it in the tourism sector) because those are the people who are able to buy new cars outside the country.
“About 90 percent of our tour operators are unable to buy new cars outside the country because purely they’re up-and-coming and there was no direct funding from the Government in that regard.”
Government has also shown its keen interest in supporting the tourism industry by setting up a $15 million tourism revolving fund that has been availed by the Reserve Bank of Zimbabwe.
However, tourism industry players have expressed concern over the facility whose resources were being availed in bond notes making it difficult for them to import the required goods as they will have to source for foreign currency.–chroncile.co.zw