The country’s tourism sector has been challenged to evolve to regain lost ground and recover from the effects of Covid-19 to drive economic growth in line with the National Development Strategy 1 (NDS1).
Environment, Climate, Tourism and Hospitality Industry Minister Mangaliso Ndlovu yesterday said Zimbabwe’s tourism sector will speedily recover in the wake of Covid-19.
Speaking at Sikato Bay at the shores of Lake Mutirikwi here, as he launched a Lion Park, Minister Ndlovu praised Zimparks for embarking on product diversification to stimulate tourism.
Sikato Bay Lion Park becomes the third such place in the country following similar parks in Chinhoyi and Matobo National Parks.
Minister Ndlovu said the Lion Park will drive domestic tourism and compensate losses in international tourism caused by travel restrictions due to the pandemic.
“The official opening of Sikato Lion Park comes on the backdrop of the negative effects of Covid-19 pandemic which we estimate to reduce tourism arrivals to the country by over 60 percent,” he said.
“However, regardless of this apparent setback, the tourism sector needs to evolve to regain and survive Covid-19 effects.”
Minister Ndlovu said as outlined in NDS1, launched by President Mnangagwa last week, the tourism sector had potential to quickly recover.
Minister Ndlovu challenged the local tourism sector to take advantage of Government’s move to waive duty on domestic tourism, saying the move will stimulate domestic tourism ahead of the anticipated rebound of international tourism in the second half of next year.
Turning to the tourism industry here, Minister Ndlovu called for innovation to widen the tourism spectacle around Lake Mutirikwi, which has vast potential to grow tourism in Masvingo.
“The major tourism activity here in Masvingo has been the visit to the Great Zimbabwe Monuments, which takes approximately three to five hours. In the absence of water-based activities in Lake Mutirikwi, there has not been much activity to retain tourism interest, hence the need to come with new innovative tourism products,” said Minister Ndlovu.
“It is undoubted that Masvingo is endowed with many tourism assets such as the Gonarezhou National Park, the Great Zimbabwe and a number of water bodies which remain untapped for recreational and water-based tourism activities.
“Chief among the underutilised water bodies is Manyuchi Dam and Tugwi Mukosi.”
Minister Ndlovu expressed optimism that the drawing up of the Tugwi-Mukosi Dam concept plan scheduled for month end and subsequent completion of the master plan around April next year, would spur tourism growth around Zimbabwe’s largest inland dam.
He called on ZimParks to restock Mutirikwi National Park to boost tourism around the water body, saying the planned creation of Tugwi-Mukosi National Park would further consolidate Masvingo’s position as a major tourist destination in the country.
The planned expansion and rehabilitation of Masvingo and Buffalo Range Airports and ongoing upgrading of the Harare-Beitbridge highway were steps in the right direction.
ZimParks director general, Mr Fulton Mangwanya, promised that his organisation will do more to diversify tourism products in Masvingo.