The Sunday Mail
THE establishment of a Tourism Satellite Account (TSA), which is set to be concluded before the end of the current financial year, is set to add fillip to current efforts to attract more than US$5 billion in annual tourism receipts in five years’ time, Government has said.
A TSA, a standard statistical framework and the main tool for the economic measurement of tourism, enables the harmonisation and reconciliation of tourism statistics from an economic perspective.
It also allows for the generation of tourism economic data that is comparable with other economic statistics.
It is estimated that the TSA project, which is viewed as critical especially at a time when Zimbabwe and Zambia have come up with a univisa, will gobble US$650 million.
Over the years, Government has been querying the mismatch between tourism arrivals and revenues.
Last week, the Minister of Tourism and Hospitality Industry, Engineer Walter Mzembi, said there is a problem in capturing all the income that would have come through the various tourism players, resulting in the sector getting a lower budget allocation.
Notwithstanding revenue leakages in the sector, tourism contributed 13 percent of Gross Domestic Product in 2013 and is expected to contribute 15 percent by 2015.
Eng Mzembi noted that Government would bankroll part of the US$650 million while the balance would come from the World Bank and the African Development Bank (AfDB).
“The Government of Zimbabwe is expected to part-fund the programme and I have already raised what I think would be the Zimbabwean invoice on the matter with Minister Chinamasa and he is attending to it.
“We can’t do all this — like having the univisa – without complementing it with the tourism satellite account. So, it is actually work in progress (and) we should do it within this fiscal year.
“It will require about US$650 million for the total project; we have always mentioned that we have support now from the World Bank and the AfDB on the project but we have to make our own contributions,” said Eng Mzembi.
Zimbabwe and Zambia have agreed to implement a univisa regime from November 28 under the auspices of the Zambezi Transfrontier Conservation Area.
The move is expected to boost tourist arrivals between the two countries, and consequently receipts.
The move by the two countries precedes a common visa for Southern Africa, which remains in the pipeline despite having been agreed to by the bloc’s leaders in 1998.
Zimbabwe and Zambia share the world famous Victoria Falls, a premier tourist attraction centre and one of the famous seven natural wonders of the world. The neighbours ran a pilot project of the univisa during the United Nations World Tourism Organisation (UNWTO)’s 20th general assembly, which they co-hosted in August last year. Once operational, the univisa will help Zimbabwe increase its tourism earnings.
Eng Mzembi believes that the country can generate US$5 billion annually from 2020 if it opens up to tourists through implementing the open skies policy and relaxing strict visa requirements, especially for China.
It is also believed that promoting domestic and religious tourism will help improve receipts.
Religious tourism is viewed as a niche that can help Zimbabwe boost its tourism revenues since it accounts for a significant portion of global arrivals.
Eng Mzembi says 60 percent of tourist arrivals into Nigeria visit popular prophet T.B. Joshua’s Synagogue Church of All Nations (SCOAN).
International tourism experts claim that 45 to 50 percent of the five billion people that move within their borders (domestic tourism) are religious tourists. Government is bullish that the tourism sector will be able to generate more than US$1 billion this year.
“We have sought to break the US$1 billion barrier; we have never receipted anything beyond a billion, so we are working hard to surpass that figure (this year), notwithstanding the challenges around Ebola,” said Eng Mzembi.
The country’s hospitality industry has lost over US$6 million since the outbreak of the Ebola epidemic in West Africa as some visitors cancelled their bookings.
Over 30 buyers also pulled out of the 2014 Sanganai/Hlanganani World Tourism Expo on Ebola fears.
While Zimbabwe is battling to surpass US$1billion in annual tourism receipts, neighbouring South Africa is collecting over US$12 billion per year.
Botswana, Malawi, Mozambique, South Africa and Zambia continue to host between 80 000 to 150 000 Chinese tourists annually compared to Zimbabwe’s 5 500 despite the cordial relations existing between Harare and Beijing. At its peak in 1999, Zimbabwe welcomed 27 percent of international arrivals largely from Europe and America.
Arrivals from the same markets have now slumped to 13 percent.
East Africa — principally Kenya, Tanzania, Burundi and Rwanda — has opened up its tourism space (visa relaxation and opening skies) to almost 69 percent, while sub-Saharan Africa is at 29 percent, with Zimbabwe and Malawi at 11 percent.
Zimbabwe had 48 airlines flying to Harare, but the number has since shrunk to 15 this year.