‘PPPs critical in driving tourism recovery’

PRIVATE-public partnerships (PPPs) are key to the future of the tourism industry’s infrastructure development to be able to realign the sector post Covid-19, industry players have said.

President Mnangagwa recently launched the Tourism Recovery and Growth Strategy in Victoria Falls and reiterated the importance of tourism as one of the key drivers of the economy alongside agriculture, manufacturing and mining.

Globally, tourism is regarded as a quick avenue for economic development and a tool for poverty alleviation through its linkages with other downstream sectors of the economy. In view of this potential, Government has pledged to continue to avail investment incentives designed to attract more investment into the sector.

A total of $500 million guarantee and revolving fund has since been set aside to assist the sector among other tourism industry perks.

The private sector has also been invited to come forward and invest in tourism infrastructure projects, with opportunities available in conservancies and wildlife-based tourism facilities.

Traditionally dormant tourism areas such as Binga will see Government seeking to attract investment through infrastructure development.

In an interview yesterday, Tourism Business Council of Zimbabwe president, Ms Winnie Muchanyuka, said the industry was incapacitated to go it alone because of the pandemic.

“The losses incurred by closures experienced through the period of lockdown will inhibit industry from making significant investments in the short to medium term where focus will really be about recovery and restoration,” she said.

“The new normal will dictate new travel patterns. Industry will have to explore opportunities in this new norm and invest there. In the mid to long term, PPPs need to be explored especially in infrastructure development.

“There are opportunities in airports development and inner road repairs, which can enhance the tourism product in Zimbabwe and improve accessibility to resorts.”

Ms Muchanyuka said there were vast opportunities in the conservation and anti-poaching space where PPPs can be developed. These partnerships, she said, are more crucial than ever as the sector realigns the product to the new travel patterns that will emerge post Covid-19.

The Conceptual Development Framework for the Victoria Falls-Binga Special Economic Zone (SEZ) recently approved by Government is also set to play a pivotal role. Government has identified Mosi-oa-Tunya Development Company as its special purpose vehicle to spearhead tourism infrastructure development particularly in Masue Estate in partnership with other stakeholders. The company is understood to be engaged in coming up with a feasibility study with a view to spearhead investment and come up with an investment prospectus to attract investors.

An indigenous tourism operator, Mr Khumbulani Tshambo, who is proprietor for People Link Tours and Transfers and iRock Lodge in Victoria Falls who also runs the Buy A Brick Foundation in partnership with Team Africa, have invested more than US$500 000 to health and education infrastructure in communities around Victoria Falls.

He implored Government to fine tune its policy framework to attract investors.

“Investors are there but they first look at protection of their investments especially in the bank. Government should improve its policy system and make it flexible so as to attract investors into tourism,” he said.

Hospitality Industry Association (HAZ) vice chairman Mr Farai Chimba said increasing room capacity was key.

There are 6 611 hotel rooms in Zimbabwe, with about 4 029 more needed by 2023, which clearly presents massive investments opportunities in tourism related infrastructure.

“There is need to grow our room inventory as this will give the country as a destination more capacity to not only host bigger events but support the investments and expansion that is being done at airports,” he said.

“We, however, need this investment to look at new diversified products, which are different from existing ones.”

Industry experts say Covid-19 presents an opportunity for rebranding national image through a wide range of products in various sectors namely agro-tourism, community-based tourism, cultural tourism, eco-tourism, medical tourism, religious tourism, sports tourism, sustainable tourism, industrial tourism and domestic tourism.

Official statistics show an upward trend in tourism arrivals in the past decade where 2,56 million people visited Zimbabwe in 2018 up from 1,7 million in 2012, making a six percent growth before the pandemic. As such the Tourism Recovery Strategy roadmap seeks to “restart” the industry from the devastating effects of Covid-19, which could result in a 60 percent drop to about 920 000 arrivals this year.

The successful implementation of the strategy requires an all-stakeholder approach, with Government playing a facilitatory role. Village and cultural tourism expert Mr Jaheliduna Ndlovu popularly known in tourism industry as Mpisi, also said there is a lot of potential in village tourism as international visitors want to experience African culture. — chronicle.co.zw

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