By Michael Gwarisa
THE US$2.657 million budgetary allocation that was availed to the tourism industry in the 2017 budget presents an even bleak future for the tourism industry.
Regionally, the South African government has realised serious revenue and massive Gross Domestic Product contribution to the economy directly from the tourism industry and funding towards the sector has been on an upward trend over the years. The Department of Tourism’s budget for fiscal period 2015/16 is ZAR 1.8 billion, of which ZAR 977 million is directed to South African Tourism.
Tourism’s direct contribution to South Africa’s GDP grew from ZAR 93.5 billion in 2012 to ZAR 103.5 billion in 2013. The percentage contribution of tourism to GDP has remained stable for the past two reporting periods at 2.9 percent. Tourism directly supported 655 609 jobs in 2013, or 4.4 percent of total employment – up from 645 755 in 2012.
Despite the Zimbabwe tourism sector not getting enough funding, it still remains the leading sector in term of sectorial growth, contributing not less than 11 percent to the economy’s GDP. With proper funding and massive government support, the tourism industry stands as a major economic driver as it creates jobs and brings in the much needed foreign currency which is currently in short supply.
The current cash crisis can become a thing of the past if the tourism industry is given priority in government’s plans of turning around the economy. Zimbabwe currently needs around US$10 billion to completely turn around the economy.
Considering Tourism and hospitality industry minster Engineer Walter Mzembi’s ambitious vision of having a US$5 billion tourism boom from five million tourism arrivals, contributing 15 percent to GDP by 2020, the tourism industry can contribute significantly towards the achievement of complete economic turn -around.
Lack of funding towards the tourism sector has seen the tourism industry failing to perform to full capacity. The annual Sanganai/Hlanganani Travel expo that was held in Bulawayo this year almost became a non-event following lack of funding from the fiscus.
Government had to chip in at the 11th hour to bailout the travel fair which was in jeopardy with a US$400 000 injection. Considering the allocation the sector got for the 2017 period, the travel jamboree could be in limbo unless the private sector or government come to its rescue.
In 2009, Government introduced duty free importation of capital equipment by tourism operators to enable the refurbishment, expansion and modernisation of hotels, lodges and conference facilities.However, due to limited access to capital, the tourism sector has not been able to fully take advantage of the rebate scheme.