Zimbabwe must gradually move away from issuing visas to tourists and focus more on maximising on revenues spent by visitors when they stay in the country, an official has said.
While the government generates revenues from issuing visas, Department of Immigration principal director Clemence Masango said that should not be the main focus.
“As a country, we need to move away from visas to the extent possible and also not amplify too much of the revenue that we get from visa fees,” Mr Masango said while giving an update on resumption of the Kaza uni-visa regime.
“The real benefit that accrues to any economy from tourism is what tourists spend when they come here, not the $50 visa fees.”
The Kaza uni-visa is a project between Zimbabwe and Zambia which was launched as a trial in 2014 and was discontinued a year later.
The visa, which grants tourists access to both Zambia and Zimbabwe, was re-launched last December.
The ultimate vision is to include all the five countries that are part of the Kavango Zambezi Transfrontier Conservation Area, commonly known as Kaza, which include Angola, Botswana, Namibia, Zambia and Zimbabwe, if the trial run is successful.
In 2016, the United Nations World Tourism Organisation (UNWTO) ranked Zimbabwe as one of the top 30 countries in the world that made major efforts to reduce travel restrictions and allow free movement of tourists in the past seven years.
During the same year, the government scraped visa requirements for citizens of the Southern African Development Community while 37 countries including China, Turkey, Cuba, Algeria, Iran and others were moved from Category C to Category B.
The visa regime has three categories, namely A – in which citizens from selected countries are exempt from visa requirements, B – where citizens of the targeted countries apply for visas on arrival and C, where those falling in the group are required to apply for a visa while still in their home country.
Mr Masango said a boost in tourist arrivals through scrapping visas had a multiplier effect on the rest of the economy in terms of job creation among others.
“This is the kind of broad thinking that we need when we talk about tourism visas, facilitation of travel and access to a destination,” he said.
Zimbabwe Tourism Authority chief executive Karikoga Kaseke said scrapping visas or making facilitation easier would boost performance of the tourism sector.
“People plan holidays in a manner that takes them to two or three countries but the time for applying for a visa is also limited. If they get visa in one country that gives them access to other countries that are on that visa, it will be very much appreciated,” he said.
Zimbabwe targets to attract five million tourists annually by 2020, up from over one million and generating an income of $5 billion for the industry.