Natasha Chamba, Business Reporter
THE Tourism Business Council of Zimbabwe (TBCZ) has appealed to the Reserve Bank of Zimbabwe to peg the tourism loan scheme in United States dollars so as to help the sector import critical capital goods.
The RTGS$15 million facility has been lying idle for over two years with tourism players saying it was difficult to access the money in local currency and convert it to forex to buy critical raw materials from outside the country.
TBCZ president, Mrs Winnie Muchanyuka, told Chronicle Business that the board and its members were of the view that a forex-indexed loan would work well for the sector.
“The RTGS$15 million tourism facility had a very slow uptake due to the fact that the facility was available in RTGS dollars, which made it tricky for most tourism players to access it as foreign currency that is required to acquire capital goods from outside the country,” she said.
“Therefore, the RTGS$15 million tourism facility should be pegged in US dollars for the sector players to access it for critical goods needed in their operations.
“It becomes very costly to get the money in local currency and then go to the market to procure US dollars. Hence there is a need for the facility to be in US dollars. If we are able to get these revolving funds in US dollars we will certainly utilise it in US dollars and repay it in US dollars.”
The RBZ availed the loan facility, which is demand-driven and attracts an interest rate of 7,5 percent repayable within 12 months.
Although the Zimbabwe Tourism Authority (ZTA) publicised and marketed the facility, there were no takers due to the volatility of the local currency.
Mrs Muchanyuka said a viable currency was critical to the tourism sector, which is expected to grow by 20 percent in 2019 and surpass the annual global tourism growth and regional growth forecast of 4,5 percent and 5,5 percent respectively.
Tourism experts believe the envisaged positive performance of the tourism industry in Zimbabwe is expected to hinge on factors such as regional tourism growth trends, improved destination image, new airlines, continued marketing efforts and destination awareness and improvement in service delivery.
“The tourism sector is projected to earn US$1,5 billion this year and has pledged to continue striving towards high foreign currency generation and retention levels.
Mrs Muchanyuka said the travel and tourism sector was doing the best it could to remain viable and operational.
“We are currently operating in a harsh economic environment and we pledge to do the best we can in helping to improve the situation. The board is worried about the situation and engagements with authorities at all levels and in all arrears of endeavour will be key in addressing these problems,” she said.