Fighting Poverty through Tourism

22 Aug 2013

imageCruising along the Zambezi River/Photo UNDP

The 2013 Zimbabwe Investment Handbook was launched in the tourist resort town of Victoria Falls on 21 August 2013, with a call for the country to deal head-on with the specific challenges affecting the tourism industry to reduce poverty, enhance growth and position Zimbabwe as a preferred tourist destination.

 

The launch of the publication coincided with a two-day dialogue session on travel and tourism competitiveness. It was jointly organised by the UNDP, the Zimbabwe Economic Policy Analysis and Research Unit (ZEPARU) and Deloitte, with support from the Ministry of Tourism & Hospitality Industry (MoTHI) and the Ministry of Economic Planning and Investment Promotion (MoEPIP). 

The event was part of the dialogue series financed by the UNDP that are aimed at encouraging policy discussions on key issues affecting the Zimbabwean economy, with a view to influence policy formulation and implementation. It was a follow-up to the previous one held in April 2013 in Harare, whose main focus was to discuss and come up with strategies on improving the “doing business” environment in Zimbabwe.

This latest dialogue session was convened two days ahead of the historic 20thUNWTO General Assembly held from 24-29 August 2013 in the towns of Victoria Falls (Zimbabwe and Livingstone (Zambia).

 

In his remarks, the Secretary for Economic Planning and Investment Promotion, Dr. Desire Sibanda highlighted the importance of tourism to the country’s economy saying that the sector’s contribution to GDP grew from -9% in 2008 to a positive contribution of 6.9%, 8%, 5.5% and 7.5% in 2009, 2010, 2011 and 2012 respectively. He noted that given that most tourist attractions are in rural areas, tourism which is labour intensive creates many employment opportunities in those areas.

“The main thrust of the Medium Term Plan is to ensure sustainable and productive private sector -driven tourism industry that promotes economic growth and improve livelihoods,” said Dr. Sibanda, adding that $1,58 billion projects were approved by the Zimbabwe Investment Authority (ZIA) for the hotel and accommodation subsector.

Zimbabwe’s National Tourism Policy is based on inclusivity and mutual partnership, explained the Secretary for Tourism and Hospitality Industry, Ms.Sangarwe-Mukahanana. “It positions tourism as a transformative sector that is envisaged to contribute positively towards the growth of the economy.”

According to the handbook, Zimbabwe is currently ranked 118 out of 140 of the countries sampled.  The country is ranked 15 in Sub Saharan Africa. Whilst Zimbabwe is ranked fairly well in comparison to other sub-Saharan economies there is still need for significant strengthening of the sector to enhance its competitiveness, experts say. 

Meanwhile, it was noted that Zimbabwe’s 2013 ranking of 118 out of 140 countries is a slight improvement from 119 out 139 in 2011. This was mainly underpinned by significant improvements in the areas of price competitiveness, ICT infrastructure and prioritisation of the travel and tourism  environmental sustainability. “However, policy and regulations, health and hygiene, air and ground transport infrastructure and affinity for tourism remains the key sub-indices weighing heavily on the sector’s competitiveness,” states a report produced after the travel and tourism competitiveness policy dialogue.