By Daniel Chigundu
ZIMBABWE Tourism Authority (ZTA) which is tasked with the important duty of marketing the country’s tourism destinations says it has been left with no choice but to re-strategize following inadequate budget allocations.
ZTA had submitted a budget proposal of $21 970 567 which comprised government funding of $11 590 000 while the remainder is meant to come from the tourism levy.
However, in its 2019 National Budget, the government only allocated them $5.5 million where the $5 million is directed towards operations while the $500k is to be channelled towards capital expenditure.
In an interview, ZTA acting chief executive Givemore Chidzidzi said the inadequate allocation of resources puts his organisation in a difficult position where they have to go back to the table and look for other ways of getting the job done.
“In light of this, you will note that we were allocated less than 50% of what we expected from the government, a situation which might constrain our operations. We, however, remain optimistic and are determined to work with what we have.
“One of our strategies has been attending travel shows in the targeted source markets and this was working well for us. Now we have to re-strategize and devise other ways of reaching our potential tourists such as digital media.
“You will find out that it does not reach out to a large population only but is also very cost effective. However, this is not to imply that we were not present on digital platforms but we have to scale-up our presence and fight for our space,” he said.
Although tourism has been identified as one of the country’s low hanging fruit with the potential to bring quick wins, it has however failed over the years to attract adequate funding from government for its marketing strategies.
For tourism to produce meaningful results, economic experts are of the view that it must be adequately resourced to host tourism events, attend international tourism fairs and have both physical and online visibility in various source markets.
Inadequate funding has seen Zimbabwe lacking visibility in such lucrative source markets as China which is the world’s largest contributor of outbound tourists.
According to Chidzidzi, ZTA has organised a number of marketing events and activities which are waiting for disbursement of funds from the government.
“We do have quite a number of activities that we have lined up for the year and these include our flagship Sanganai/Hlanganani Tourism Fair. There are also other programs that advance our cause, such as domestic tourism campaigns and are only awaiting disbursement of funds from Government. These will be announced in due course as the funds become available,” he said.
Hosting of Sanganai/Hlanganani World Tourism Fair has always been affected by issues of funding to the extent that it was almost cancelled last year had it not been for last-minute intervention from the government.
This year again the country’s premier tourism expo faces the same challenge and the acting ZTA boss said he cannot guarantee if the funding will be adequate for hosting it.
“I cannot guarantee if there will be adequate funding this year as we have always held the fair without adequate resources. However, we appreciate the support the government has rendered us so far since the inception of the event and hope they will continue doing so this year.
“After apportioning what we got from the government, Sanganai/Hlanganani Tourism Fair and Harare International Carnival were allocated $600k and $350k respectively. These figures are a far cry of what we need to host these events effectively.
“It was our hope that given what tourism is contributing to the economy and the potential levels it can reach, the government would prioritize us and ensure we are adequately funded,” he said.
Meanwhile, Chidzidzi has revealed that consultations are currently underway with regards to the possibility of hosting the Bulawayo Carnival as was announced by Dr Karikoga Kaseke last year.
“It has been our dream that the carnival be decentralized so that all major cities hold their own carnivals and this also includes Bulawayo. Consultations are still underway to ascertain their state of preparedness,” said Chidzidzi.
According to Dr Kaseke, the Bulawayo Carnival is meant to celebrate the life of the later Vice President Joshua Nkomo and the event is supposed to be held the weekend before the Sanganai/Hlanganani World Travel Expo.