The media should present Zim as a safe tourist destination

Zimbabwe’s tourism sector suffered setbacks due to the Covid-19 outbreak, which affected some sectors of the economy, including the hospitality industry. Our reporter Freeman Makopa (FM) met with Hospitality Association of Zimbabwe (HAZ) Vice President Brian Nyakutombwa (BM, pictured) to give us an insight into the post-Covid-19 industry. Here are excerpts from the interview:

FM: How do taxes on Zimbabwe’s tourism and hospitality sectors affect local businesses?

BN: Taxes are a cost to individuals and businesses. Its amount determines the ultimate effect on the cost of products and services, disposable income and the attractiveness of Zimbabwe as a destination for investors.

FM: What is the highest priority for infrastructure investment in Zimbabwe?

BN: Dualization and expansion of the main highways. This development will relieve congested highways given the increased traffic of freight trucks and intercity buses. Maintenance of access roads to main roads, especially in national parks. There are many scenic areas found in our national parks, which must be accessed by all types of vehicles, particularly those with little clearance, and the average domestic tourist will have one of those vehicles. The access roads are already in place and just need a little attention.

Telecommunications for efficient coverage in all areas of Zimbabwe as tourism crosses all regions and travelers need to stay in constant contact with the rest of the world while traveling.

Hospitals in tourist destinations must be stocked with essential medicines and equipment in order to be fully equipped to respond to health emergencies and routine medical requirements of tourists and local residents.

Regional airstrips would facilitate faster movement between destinations while allowing travelers access to more places.

FM: How can private sector operators play a role in increasing the number of local and regional tourists?

BN: Reform your facilities to give them a modern look and in line with current trends. Top-notch skills training for staff for excellent service delivery that meets international standards.

Exclusive marketing efforts to increase online and digital presence, while paying attention to efforts to promote domestic tourism through local media channels.

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Create innovations that offer financial packages to local and regional travelers so they can invest in travel while enjoying favorable payment terms.

FM: What can be done to improve the investment attractiveness of the tourism sector?ector?

BN: We need to use different local and international media channels to present Zimbabwe as an attractive tourist destination and attend international trade shows and also organize local shows to show what the country has to offer.

We need to offer attractive investment conditions for potential investors and encourage innovative and entrepreneurial initiatives by young people and people who aspire to venture into business.

It is necessary to put into operation the revolving tourism fund, which should launch tourism development initiatives and stimulate the industry. A revolving fund simply means that the funds set aside in that facility are loaned out at favorable interest rates, and as borrowers pay, the money goes to others and revolves that way. It’s a quick and affordable way to raise much-needed funds for industry capital expenditures.

FM: What is the current state of hotel occupancy this year compared to last year?

BN: Last year was very moderate due to the prevalence of Covid-19; but thanks to the various government interventions that helped lower new cases and deaths related to Covid-19.

The year 2022 has seen an encouraging uptick in occupancy, which some in the industry are calling the post-Covid-19 run as a result of various organizations scrambling to catch up on their stalled strategic planning sessions that had come to a halt. due to the arrival of the virus and the associated travel restrictions. This has made the MICE business (meetings, incentives, conferences and exhibitions) contribute significantly to the occupation of the sector. Regional and international tourist traffic, both by road and by air, has also resumed as Covid-19 port entry requirements have been relaxed in response to the positive impact of Covid vaccines and boosters. -19.

FM: How much does the sector require?

BN: In terms of the financial sum required by the sector, it takes a bit of exercise to figure that out and that’s a work in progress. But speaking in terms of non-financial requirements, we need more awareness of Zimbabwe as a beautiful place to visit; we need a change in perceptions of Zimbabwe as an unsafe place to visit, and a resumption of incoming air traffic from the region and the rest of the world.

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FM: What are some of the challenges facing the sector?

BN: inconsistent power supply; exchange rate fluctuations; lack of availability of affordable funds to renovate and; low skill depth of human capital.

FM: How do you plan to face this challenge?

BN: Operators are installing alternative power sources with a heavy emphasis on solar power, which as an association we would like to see gain momentum. We would also like to cooperate with power and energy authorities regarding efforts to conserve energy.

We are also pleased with the interventions to control the exchange rate and pricing mechanisms in the industry through the due diligence exercise now underway between service providers and government departments and agents. As an association, we are waiting for the operation of the Revolving Tourism Fund so that operators can begin to benefit from the facility.

With respect to the skill depth of human capital, as a country, we have suffered from a constant brain drain for the last two decades and the skill base needs to be rebuilt.

I am pleased to say that a workforce development plan is in place and HAZ is closely monitoring its implementation to ensure it delivers the expected benefits to the sector.

Meanwhile, the challenges are increasing the cost of doing business, compromising the customer experience and delaying much-needed renovation exercises for hospitality establishments. As for the HR skills depth deficiency, it simply means that service levels and product quality are not where they should be, as service delivery will be plagued with inconsistencies and frequent service failures, which compromises customer experiences and the reputation of establishments and the nation. usually.

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