By Lawson Mabhena
Johannesburg, South Africa — President Mnangagwa has directed Tourism and Hospitality Industry Minister Prisca Mupfumira to lead the process in setting up a Special Economic Zone (SEZ) for tourism, a project that will see Hwange, Victoria Falls and Kariba transform into a hub of tourism on the entire continent.
Addressing tourism industry players from various countries at the end of Meetings Africa – a gathering that showcases Africa’s diverse offering of tourism services and products – here yesterday, Minister Mupfumira said her ministry had already placed “expression of interest adverts” in local media and online platforms.
She said the entire Hwange-Victoria Falls-Kariba belt would be turned into a “virtual city”, with world class artificial beaches, hotels and conference centres, among a host of other business opportunities.
Minister Mupfumira said the SEZ will have a bias towards conventional, medical and sporting tourism.
“The Special Economic Zone will come with benefits in the areas of taxation and special concessions,” she said. “We invite investors to take advantage of this opportunity while it still lasts. It’s a first-come-first-served or winner takes all.”
Making presentations during the event that was hosted by the Zimbabwe Tourism Authority and saw tour operators and other industry players from various countries engaging the minister during a question-and-answer session, Minister Mupfumira said President Mnangagwa “did not mince his words” when briefing her on his expectations from the tourism sector.
“He has clearly said economics and trade cooperation would be his priority in Zimbabwe, rather than politics in order to catch up with the region.
“He has also stated that Zimbabwe was been lagging behind in many areas as a result of isolation for the past 18 years. Now we are saying to the world: ‘Zimbabwe is now open for business’.
“I, therefore, assumed this task willingly, given the political will to change the way things were being done and the enthusiasm and excitement that we were getting from all major source markets following the new political dispensation that saw Zimbabwe celebrate a peaceful transition.”
Minister Mupfumira hailed South Africa for being with Zimbabwe through thick and thin, saying Government had acted in addressing issues affecting tourism cooperation between the two countries.
She emphasised that such issues were “of our own making”.
“When I met my tourism team for a briefing, it became very clear that as a nation we have been anchored by rivals from this great nation, South Africa,” she said.
“Despite the fact that we have not been performing very well since 2006 due to factors that were of our own doing, South Africa still remains as the key source market for Zim- babwe.
The reception was attending by various dignitaries, who included Deputy Ambassador to South Africa Ms Metani Chauke, Consular-General Batiraishe Mukonoweshuro and ZTA CEO Dr Karikoga Kaseke.
Meetings Africa, which was held at the Sandton Convention Centre from Monday, ended yesterday.