Golden Sibanda Senior Business Reporter
Tourism operators across Zimbabwe must upgrade the quality and extent of their physical infrastructure in order to be able to handle the anticipated steady increase in visitors beginning next year, Environment, Tourism and Hospitality Industry Minister Priscah Mupfumira has said.
Minister Mupfumira said Zimbabwe’s allure as a premier travel destination had grown since the current administration came into power in 2017, which was evidenced by the country’s recent ratings as one of the top travel destinations in the world. She said this will drive growth in visitors.
She made the remarks at the launch of Cresta Oasis Hotel in Harare yesterday following completion of a refurbishment exercise, which cost US$3,5 million to give it a fresh and modern appeal in line with global trends.
“May I therefore call upon travel and tourism operators across Zimbabwe to upgrade their physical infrastructure to meet the expected steady increase in tourist arrivals in this coming year,” the minister said.
Zimbabwe was rated the Third Best Travel Destination in the World (2019) by one of the world’s most popular travel guides, Lonely Planet, after Sri Lanka and Germany and was the only African country in the top 10.
During the same period, the National Geographic Traveller also named Zimbabwe among the top 10 must see destinations in the world dubbed “the cool list 2019”.
And just over two months ago at International Travel Bureau (ITB) Berlin travel show, destination Zimbabwe was again nominated by the Pacific Area Travel Writers Association (PATWA) as the Sustainable Destination of the Year for 2019.
Tourism is a strategic sector in Zimbabwe and has been identified as a key economic pillar in Government’s two-year economic blueprint, Transitional Stabilisation Programme (TSP) covering the period 2018-2020.
The target is for the sector to reach five million tourists and contribute 15 percent to the Gross Domestic Product (GDP) from the current 8 percent and to generate US$5 billion in receipts and employ over 300 000 directly and indirectly.
The minister said she noted with satisfaction that Cresta Hotels had undertaken complete refurbishment of its properties namely Cresta Lodge in Harare, Cresta Churchill in Bulawayo and Cresta Spray View in Victoria Falls, to be ready and able to take advantage of the current recovery of tourism sector in Zimbabwe.
“I am informed that work is underway on the refurbishment of Cresta Jameson in Harare and I cannot wait for the completion of the project,” the minister said.
Minister Mupfumira said Government was already supporting the tourism sector through Statutory Instruments on specified motor vehicles (S.I. 10 of 2018) and Capital goods (S.I.159 of 2017), which have contributed significantly to the development of the domestic tourism sector. She assured the industry that the Government was committed to support the tourism sector in every way possible.
“In this regard I commit my Ministry to work in collaboration with all stakeholders to unlock its full potential under the Transitional Stabilisation Programme (TSP) (2018-2020).”
The Government, Minister Mupfumira also said, had through the Reserve Bank of Zimbabwe (RBZ), availed a $15 million tourism facility for capitalisation and recurrent expenditure.
“I urge the (tourism) industry to take advantage of such facilities and invest in growth and development of the sector,” she said.
Speaking at the same event, Cresta Hotels country manager Chipo Mandela, said work undertaken in the past year involved refurbishing all apartments and bedrooms, public areas, conference rooms, creation of a new business conference facility and an new bar and entertainment centre at the Harare hotel.
“Our decision to undertake a US$3,5 million refurbishment programme was made in order to bring about a renaissance of everything that is best about this hotel, and I am delighted with the final product,” she said.
Ms Mandela said what was “needed around us is a similar investment by other stakeholders, and this should come principally from central Government”, local Government and the entire private sector.
Tourism sector is on a rebound after decades of slowed down dating back to year 2000.
Tourist arrivals in Zimbabwe increased to 2 422 930 in 2017 from 2 167 686 the prior year. Tourist arrivals in Zimbabwe averaged 1 684 950,87 from 1980 until 2017, reaching an all-time high of 2 508 255 in 2007 and a record low of 237 668 in 1980.