Natasha Chamba, Business Reporter
GOVERNMENT has directed players in the tourism sector to upgrade their infrastructure to meet expected standards as the country anticipates increased tourist arrivals.
Environment, Tourism and Hospitality Industry Minister, Prisca Mupfumira, said this in her keynote address at the re-launch of Cresta Oasis Hotel in Harare on Friday, where she stated that the tourism sector was geared for a boom with higher arrivals expected up to 2020.
“I 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. We need to make the sector highly competitive in comparison with other destinations, not just in this region, but across the world,” she said.
The Minister said tourist arrivals in Zimbabwe reached 2,6 million in 2018, a six percent jump from 2,4 million received in 2017.
She said the positive drive was attributable to positive sentiment ushered in by the Second Republic, which has seen an upsurge in the desire to invest in the country across all sectors, including tourism.
“The country is witnessing more goodwill and positive image in the markets. The new investment policy and the national mantra ‘Zimbabwe is open for Business’ provide the tourism sector with an opportunity for more local and foreign direct investment,” she said.
Minister Mupfumira applauded Cresta Hotels for channelling funds amounting to $3,5 million towards refurbishment efforts.
She also acknowledged the refurbishment of other hotels under Cresta Hotels Group, which had been completely refurbished namely Cresta Lodge in Harare, Cresta Churchill in Bulawayo and Cresta Spray View in Victoria Falls.
The Minister said the group was still working on refurbishing Cresta Jameson in Harare. She said Government was committed to supporting the tourism sector in every way it can.
Government support has come through statutory instruments, for instance, 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 tourism sector.
There is also a duty exemption facility on luxury buses (S.I. 179 of 2018) pronounced by the Minister of Finance and Economic Development during the fiscal policy statement late last year.
These interventions go a long way in enhancing the quality of goods and services offered to visitors. Government, through the Reserve Bank of Zimbabwe, also availed a $15 million tourism facility for capitalisation and recurrent expenditure.
“I urge the industry to take advantage of such facilities and invest for growth and development of the sector,” said the Minister.
Zimbabwe was recently nominated as the third best travel destination in the world for 2019 by one of the world’s most popular travel guides, Lonely Planet after Sri Lanka and Germany. National Geographic Traveller also named Zimbabwe among the top 10 must see destinations in the world.
Two months ago at the ITB Berlin travel show, Zimbabwe was nominated by the Pacific Area Travel Writers Association (PATWA) as the Sustainable Destination of the Year.