Monday, 11 July 2016

Zimbabwe: Government Policies Hurting Tourism

Tourism players have appealed to government to revisit some of its policies that are negatively affecting the industry which is currently grappling with subdued tourist arrivals.

There is unanimity among industry actors that tourism is a key growth driver and Treasury estimates that the sector is set to grow by more than 4,7 percent this year and maintain moderate growth of above four percent.

Finance Minister Patrick Chinamasa has highlighted that government supports interventions meant to enhance tourism, which include marketing, relaxing the visa regime, investment in tourism and related infrastructure and promotion of the "Open skies policy."

However, industry players said they were suffering from the dire effects of some government policies whose existence directly affects operations and tourist arrivals.

Two years ago, government introduced a 15 percent Value Added Tax (VAT) on accommodation and recently came up with Statutory Instrument 64 of 2016 which restricts the importation of a range of goods into the country without a licence or import permit.

Tourism players who include hoteliers and tour operators held an urgent meeting last week under the auspices of the Zimbabwe Tourism Authority (ZTA) where they implored the ZTA board, led by Chipo Mutasa, to immediately engage government over the issues.

Zimbabwe Council for Tourism (ZCT) representative, Barbra Murasiranwa, told the meeting that the sector was saddled with a number of challenges that needed urgent attention.

Murasiranwa said even the 15 percent VAT introduced by government two years ago needs re-visiting as it was directly affecting tourism.

"Something still needs to be done about VAT. It's making our destination expensive. We want to bring business to the country through luring tourists, but we can't do that when our products are this expensive. We can attract more tourists if VAT is removed," said Murasiranwa.

She said some countries such as Kenya and Tanzania had scrapped VAT to attract more tourists into their countries. ZCT has also appealed for a one-stop-shop where all licence fees and permits could be applied for and obtained under one roof.

Murasiranwa called for decentralisation of licence offices to respective towns where tour operators could, for instance, apply for permits in Victoria Falls or any other town they are domiciled in rather than having to travel to Harare.

"We also need a one-stop-shop where operators can apply for permits and licences and do away with multiple licences. There are as many as 20 licences needed to run helicopter and boats (services) and all these are obtained from Harare and Bulawayo. Fees should be reasonable as well," she said.

Murasiranwa said the industry still needed assistance regarding the prolonged rates impasse between hotels and the Victoria Falls Municipality.

African Sun Hotel group and the local authority recently clashed over a US$400 000 bill in unpaid rates, which had skyrocketed following a disputed 500 percent tariff increase.

"The rates issue between (Victoria Falls) hotels and the council is still pending. The council introduced a 500 percent increase in rates resulting in a number of meetings after we complained about the issue. The rates were then reduced by 20 percent, but hotels are still appealing for a relook into this because the figure is still high," said Murasiranwa.

Mutasa said they would return to the resort town with a response within a month.

Source: Zimbabwe: Government Policies Hurting Tourism (07/07/16)

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