Calls for $100 million tourism fund

HARARE - The Tourism minister has appealed to Finance minister Tendai Biti to unveil a $100 million tourism fund to enable the recapitalisation and refurbishment of the sector ahead of the United Nations World Tourism Organisation (UNWTO) general assembly next year.

Liquidity constraints and economic meltdown of the last decade have left most hotels in the country in dire need of refurbishments to meet international standards.

Douglas Mavhembu, acting director international tourism directorate in the Tourism ministry said  high costs of financing operations has forced stakeholders in the sector to shelve some key investment projects.

“We are going to have a meeting this (yesterday) afternoon with Treasury so that we can propose to them to avail a revolving fund that stakeholders in the tourism sector can borrow from for recapitalisation and refurbishment. The amount can be availed as a loan payable back with interest,” he said.

Financial results released by some firms in the tourism industry indicate that funding remains a major constraint, hampering growth of the sector and upgrading of the existing facilities.

The Reserve Bank of Zimbabwe introduced a tourism revolving fund in 2007 to assist hoteliers to spruce up their image after years of deterioration, however, the fund ceased to operate in 2009 when the central bank stopped quasi-fiscal operations.

Mavhembu said the re-introduction of the tourism fund was critical in the revival, growth and completion of the current projects.

Zimbabwe, which won the bid to co-host the 2013 Unwto general assembly with Zambia in Victoria Falls, is making frantic efforts to rehabilitate most its infrastructure which deteriorated during the hyperinflationary era.

Mavhembu said his ministry is happy with the work that is being done by Zimbabwe and Zambia in the preparation for the Unwto general assembly.

“A Unwto inspection team was recently in Zimbabwe and Zambia to assess progress towards the hosting of the event and they expressed satisfaction with our preparations to date,” he said.

“In conjunction with our Zambian counterparts we are currently working on a uniform visa for tourists. The visa would be valid for 30 days.”

Mavhembu said tourism players have welcomed the move by Air Zimbabwe to resume flights to Victoria Falls as this would make the place more accessible.

“The decision by the Air Zimbabwe board to attract more international airlines into the country is a good move, which will put Zimbabwe on the international map, thus attracting more tourists into Zimbabwe,” he said.

Emirates, KLM and Lam this year started operations into the country while British Airways and Air Lufthansa have expressed their willingness to return to Zimbabwe.

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