Zimto set up $200m tourism fund

HARARE - Tourism minister Walter Mzembi says Zimbabwe is ready to set up a $200 million tourism revolving fund aimed at strengthening growth of the sector in the country.

Zimbabwe’s tourism sector ? which contributes approximately 10 percent to the country’s gross domestic product — is also a major employer, especially for the communities around resort and historical areas, while major attractions include the Victoria Falls, Great Zimbabwe, Manna Pools and the picturesque eastern hills among others.

“Cabinet has already endorsed the setting up of a tourism revolving fund and we are in the process of engaging banks to map the way forward,” said Mzembi addressing a press briefing on Sanganai/Hlanganani World Travel and Tourism Africa Fair 2013.

Sanganai/Hlanganani World Travel and Tourism Africa Fair 2013 kicked off yesterday and will run until October 12 at Harare’s Rainbow Towers.

The southern African nation used to have the tourism revolving fund, but it was halted in 2006 at the height of hyperinflation ? when it became virtually impossible to sustain savings in the country.

Mzembi noted that the new fund will go a long way in stimulating growth in the sector which received a new lease of life following the successful hosting of the United Nations World Tourism Organisation (UNWTO) general assembly that was co-hosted by Zambia and Zimbabwe.

“This is the appropriate time for the private sector and the investing community to come and support tourism in the country,” he said.

The minister noted that Zimbabwe was ready to welcome the world again at Sanganai.

“From an organisational point of view, all is now set for the sixth edition of this premier tourism showcase with the exhibitors now tying up some loose ends.

“This year the total number of exhibitors is 1 442 and it’s an increase from last year where we had 1 200 exhibitors. The total number of foreign exhibitors is 208,” he said.

“To this end we can gladly say that Sanganai has already met its primary objective of becoming an essential marketing platform where the world meets Africa.

“This also explains why we are organising this event under the theme ‘Celebrating Africa’s Tourism Diversity’ and true to its billing of the 208 foreign exhibitors 150 are from African countries taking pride in this fair which has evolved over the years advancing the Pan- African cause in tourism,” he added.

Figures released by the Zimbabwe Tourism Authority revealed that in terms of business generation last year the Sanganai Fair contributed in excess of $250 million to the annual tourism receipts.

Mzembi forecast that this year’s expo will generate business worth in excess of $300 million which will be accounted for in tourism receipts.

“In view of the above, it is my submission that Sanganai fair has contributed significantly to the growth of tourism in this country and the entire region.

“Some of the strategic areas we wish to advance this year revolve around Meetings, Incentives, Conferences and Exhibitions (MICE) tourism business.

“So the business forum tomorrow will focus on this concept and the great minds converging will come up with innovative strategies and action plans that will steer MICE business in Zimbabwe,” he said.

Mzembi noted that although MICE business has great potential, there was need for extensive investment in professional and world class conferencing facilities.

“The other area we wish to advance during this fair is the promotion of domestic tourism. We are fully aware of the challenges our people are facing with regards to their disposable incomes.

“We have urged operators to be more innovative and create affordable packages for our people.Domestic tourism is critical for the sustenance of national tourism in any country and in Zimbabwe it accounts for about 70 percent of our receipts and it has great potential to grow further than that,” he said.

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