LOAN uptake from the RTGS$15 million Tourism Revolving Fund has remained largely subdued with players in the hospitality sector arguing that they prefer loans to be availed in US dollars as they need to purchase capital goods outside the country.
In 2017, Government through the Reserve Bank of Zimbabwe (RBZ) set up the revolving fund, which is aimed at providing lines of credit to players in the tourism and hospitality industry to support refurbishment and expansion projects for quality facility.
Tourism Business Council board member Mr Wengai Nhau has said the main reason the RBZ facility was lying idle was the fact that most hospitality industry players buy fixtures and supplies from South Africa and needed foreign currency to do that.
“The uptake was very slow as only a few players in the industry have taken loans. The major problem there was that we are getting the money in RTGS dollars and most of the people would want to use it to acquire capital goods from outside the country so you would need it in foreign currency, in essence it becomes very costly if you get in RTGS because then you have to go and get US dollars and eventually people may lose interest because of that,” he said.
“If they could be that same revolving fund denominated in US dollars because most of the borrowing and capital expenditure are beyond our borders so if we could get the revolving fund in hard currency then we will be able to utilise this bearing in mind we earn United States dollars so repayment will also be done in the same currency that we have earned.”
Zimbabwe has been making strides to get its tourism industry back on track after it was affected by turbulent times that rocked the economy, which resulted in production input costs, especially of goods that are required to sustain operating costs of business.
This was compounded by shortage of essential commodities and other less essential commodities, but the situation has since stabilised with availability of goods drastically improving.
Tourism representative body, the Zimbabwe Tourism Authority, is projecting a growth in tourist arrivals for the year 2019 from the 2.7 million (the largest amount of arrivals received in the last 19 years) arrivals generated in the year last year.
Minister of Environment, Tourism and Hospitality Industry Prisca Mupfumira is also on record saying that the industry is working on doubling its market share in the Chinese market (which boosts of a global tourism industry of US$1,3 billion annually) this year on the back of a vigorous marketing strategy being undertaken by the industry.
“It is sad that over the years our performance has not been that good and we hope that with this thrust and also with the videos shot by the Chinese delegation we will be able to market Zimbabwe more.
Our numbers as you are aware have generally been on the increase over the last 18 months and will continue on this trajectory and we want to have a better cake of the Chinese market.
“In 2016 Chinese arrivals were just around 5 000, and with the coming in of the new dispensation we increased the numbers last we were at 19 000 and we hope to double that number this year our target is at least by year 2025 to be over 100 000 Chinese arrivals,” she said.