By Daniel Chigundu
ZIMBABWE Tourism Authority (ZTA) chief executive Dr Karikoga Kaseke says he is hopeful that the new Minister of Finance and Economic Development Ignatius Chombo will adequately fund tourism.
The Finance Minister is expected to present the 2018 national budget anytime soon and Parliament will this week attend a pre-budget seminar in Victoria Falls.
The tourism sector has largely been neglected when it comes to budget allocation from treasury and the thinking is that it should fund its activities from the 2 percent Tourism Fund Levied from operators in the sector.
However, this levy has proved over time to be inadequate to effectively carry out the various tourism strategic programs such as destination marketing and conference bidding among others.
Due to lack of funds, Zimbabwe is currently absent in such leading outbound tourists markets as China and has failed to participate in various tourism shows which are used to market destinations.
By 2020, China will provide over 600 million outbound tourists from the earlier projected 240 million, which reaffirms China’s position as the world’s biggest outbound tourism market since 2012.
In 2016, Zimbabwe received only 5000 tourists from China despite enjoying a cordial relationship with the Asian country and also having a specific Look East Policy.
However, to effectively carry out its programs in 2018, ZTA requires a budget funding of about US$17.6 million (US$6.5milliom from tourism fund and US$11.1million from treasury).
Addressing the Parliamentary Portfolio Committee on Environment, Water, Tourism and Hospitality Industry Dr Kaseke said he is hoping that Minister Chombo will implement the promises made by Patrick Chinamasa.
“When the Minister Chinamasa came to Sanganai/Hlanganani, he was still Minister of Finance and he promised to adequately fund tourism after understanding how the sector works.
“He had promised to address some of the challenges through the 2018 budget, but he was reshuffled and we are hopeful that the new minister will implement those promises,” he said.
Dr Kaseke said tourism is bigger than what people think, adding that it makes a huge contribution to the economy and various sectors of the economy are also in existence because of tourism businesses.
According to MDC-T shadow minister of finance Tapiwa Mashakada, tourism is one of the country’s low hanging fruits that can bring instant results if adequately funded.
In the 2017 budget, ZTA was only given US$830 000 and this resulted in the board almost failing to host the Harare International Carnival and Sanganai/Hlanganani and it had to take the financial intervention of government for the events to happen.
Meanwhile, some of the programs that ZTA has identified in it’s ambitious 2018 tourism program include destination marketing which will gobble about US$958 000, international travel shows US$1.045.000, Visit Zimbabwe campaign US$450 000 (China and South Africa), planning, research and development programs US$545 000, National convention Bureau programs US$1.755.000 among many others.
Implementing some of these programs, according to ZTA, will help drive towards increasing tourist arrivals from 2.2 million in 2016 to about 7 million by 2025 and also increase tourism receipts from US$819 million in 2016 to US$6 billion by 2025.-