6 ways to boost domestic tourism- Walter Mzembi


Tourism and Hospitality Minister Walter Mzembi has outlined six ways that he intends to implement to boost domestic tourism which he says will be the engine driver of the tourism industry in Zimbabwe.

1. Middle class
The first is to raise a middle class which can be able to go on holiday instead of kumusha or to their farms. The recent announcement to increase the salaries of civil servants is a step in the right direction as he is going to come up with incentives to make sure that civil servants take at least three days out of the 365 in a year to go on a holiday.

2. Schools
Mzembi will work with the Ministry of Primary Education to make sure that pupils visit tourist resorts as part of their school projects and is buying up to 100 vehicles that will be at the call of the schools.

3. Religious tourism
The ministry will offer incentives to churches to promote tourism because churches tend to attract bigger crowds than music shows. He cited the example of D’banj and three clergymen Makandiwa, Uebert Angel and Boateng. D’banj’s show was advertised for almost two months by the entertainment industry. D’banj attracted only 2 500 observers. The Men’s World Conference by Prophet Makandiwa, Prophet Uebert Angel and Bishop Boateng of Ghana drew about 60 000 men.

4. Liberation history
Mzembi said he intends to enshrine liberation history into a tourism attraction not just as a one-day event attended only when a cadre dies and is buried. “It pains me that we can capture the illustrious history of our fallen heroes in just three pages when we can inspire a nation that is 94% literate to capture the history of the struggle and make sure that our liberation shrines located all over the country become a place of enshrinement of the struggle,” he said.

5. Votels
Mzembi says he intends to reintroduce Votels or village hotels so that visitors can experience the African feeling. But the votels will not only be limited to villages or remote areas but will be in set up in the suburbs as well.

6. Diaspora
Mzembi would like to capitalise on the diaspora which he said is transferring US$1.6 billion every year to the country. He would like to offer them incentives to visit the country on holiday and would like to see Air Zimbabwe beefed up.


Below is Mzembi’s full speech in Parliament on Wednesday in which he outlined how he intended to boost tourism.

MR. MZEMBI: Thank you Madam Speaker. I will tackle the first question part by part; strategies the Ministry have to promote domestic tourism and proceed to say Madam Speaker, that after the successful conclusion of the 20th Session of the UNWTO General Assembly, my Ministry has basically looked inside. We are now focusing on Zimbabwe, the domestic market.

This is going to be inspired by a UNWTO generated Tourism Master Plan that we are currently answering in parts because we do not have a budget to implement a wholesome domestic Tourism Master Plan.

We have broken it into parts, to attack it at provincial level. So, we will kick off with three domestic regional spatial plans that include in the first instance, the Victoria Falls, Kariba and Masvingo as Phase 1 and we will roll over into Phase 2 to include the other provincial centres.

But looking at domestic tourism demand, Madam Speaker, it is a function of the ability of Government to raise a middle class that can respond to the product. Up until last week when there were no pronouncements, especially with the civil service, on salaries that can enable them to take up holidays, it was almost an impossible dream.

I am happy to say that the pronouncement by Government to align the salaries of civil servants to the Poverty Datum Line (PDL), in itself, constitutes one of the strategic measures to induce capacity within our people, to be able to spend or serve for a holiday and we will be tapping into that.

In line with that, I pronounced in Cabinet that I have directed my Ministry and stakeholders to immediately come up with an incentive, a travel scheme that will commence first with civil servants. We want our people to begin a holiday culture. They are inherently holiday makers in their own making. You see them retreating on Fridays to go to kumusha or their farms.

That in itself constitutes travel and it constitutes holiday but more importantly, we are going to induce it. We are going to incentivise it by making sure that civil servants to take at least three days out of 365 days a year where they are compelled to take a holiday.

There is a task force that has been set between my ministry, the ZTA and industry that is looking at that incentive travel going forward. It is meant to unlock the huge potential that lies in domestic tourism.

The second product relates to school tourism. There has been a tradition in the past where school children were compelled to take at least one school trip per term or per year depending on their affordability. They would then begin to understand and learn their holiday resorts from locations and such designated tourism facilities.

We are bringing that product back into stream. My ministry is engaging the Ministry of Primary and Secondary Education to see if we can begin almost immediately to put that product in place. We are on the shopping list of at least 100 vehicles, that includes an assortment of vehicles and minibuses that shall be stationed in provinces and will be at the call of schools. This will promote this side of tourism.

The third product that we are going to be working on which answers the domestic market will involve religious tourism. I know this subject has been in the public domain for quite some time; it has been understood and misunderstood. Let me just outline it as it is understood from a policy angle.

We intend to inspire the church to go into business. The reason is that the church has become a market place. There is no place or business gathering in the market place that puts people together faster and quicker. I can give you an example

Mr. Speaker. About two weeks ago, there was a show by an RnB musical artist called D’banj. This show was advertised for almost two months by the entertainment industry. Alongside the venue, at Glamis Stadium, was another conference by clergymen; Prophet Makandiwa, Prophet Uebert Angel and Bishop Boateng of Ghana. It was called the Men’s World Conference.

D’banj attracted only 2 500 observers. The Men’s World Conference drew about 60 000 men that were being ministered to on their spiritual needs. This tells us that if this platform had been moved across to…

What I am basically trying to say is, if you are following my arguments; it is that the church has become a market place. I intend to incentivise the churchby invoking Statutory Instruments 124 and 119 so that the church is able, just like commercial business to ride on the back of duty free dispensations to grow its associated business.

In other words, what I am saying is that if a church is capable of gathering 120 000 people like what Prophet Makandiwa did during the Judgement Night over a four day period, it means that it should be able to look at backward integration and say, how can 120 000 people arrive at a national stadium and invest its interest in transportation business.

If each and every one of the 120 000 people; for example, have one bottle of mineral water, it means there will be US$120 000 in circulation at that particular venue. We do not take one bottle of water. We take three or four. That translates into good cash flow within that locality once you incentivize that set business.

What it means is that if a church can gather 120 000 people and during the campaign period, I recall that my party, ZANU PF, was a guest to a number of churches that would gather up to about 500 000 people in one location.

For us that constitutes business and constitutes church conference business. There is nothing that stops churches from receipting. We would also want to extend duty free and inspire business… -[HON.MEMBERS: What is the catch?]- there is no catch.

If a church decides to build a hotel because it has assembled 120 000 people and it is housing people in a hotel, then it shall attract the usual levies that are consistent with the industry. That is what we are speaking about. There is natural market place in the church that we now seek to motivate so that we grow the business.

The few of you who might have been guests to Bishop T.B.Joshua of Nigeria would attest to the fact that that shrine has now become busier in terms of receipting arrivals. It is busier than the number of visitors that arrive at Buckingham palace on any particular day. Leading up to the shrine are a number of economic chain activities that are actually generating employment and income to the fiscus.

I am going to be driving an agenda to draft the church into church inspired business. What is wrong with that? If we can introduce ethics in the market place on the back of Christian values, I would rather we build more churches than night clubs and pubs. That is really the vision.

The fourth area that we intend to look at in stimulating domestic tourism, is the area of enshrinement of our liberation history. If you visit Germany today, a visit that does not take you to the grave yards of service men and soldiers who participated in various struggles and wars in that country is not complete. So is the case with China, USA and other places.

But your country is replete with examples of the heroism and heroic struggles of our people which has not been captured. Regrettably, we only capture it on the day that a cadre dies and is buried.

It pains me that we can capture the illustrious history of our fallen heroes in just three pages when we can inspire a nation that is 94% literate to capture the history of the struggle and make sure that our liberation shrines located all over the country become a place of enshrinement of the struggle.

In the same vein it becomes part of the value chain because people will be visiting and paying money. Together with that, we intend to reintroduce a concept that was initiated just after independence. It included the concept of ‘votels’. If you recall, there were those we referred to as ‘votels’, village hotels.

A night at Sheraton Hotel for our visitors is not the experience they are coming for. They are coming here for our biodiversity; to visit our natural endowment like the Victoria Falls and man-made attractions like the Great Zimbabwe. They would also want to have a live-in experience by being hosted by our locals here.

I therefore intend to introduce home hospitality that will include ‘votels’ but in addition, capture even the urban market so that we have registered homesteads in the townships and our suburbia that are graded and are part of the accommodation chain.

If you think this is insignificant, many of you who attended the UNWTO General Assembly would attest to the fact that accommodation ran out. We had set aside three thousand rooms between us and Zambians but the demand outstripped supply.

We ended up having people being hosted in townships like Chinotimba and others where the hosts were charging anything up to $800 per day to host delegates. So for us, it is a source of income for the locals and we intend to motivate that going forward.

Mr. Speaker Sir, domestic tourism is going to be the future of our product. We have learnt from our past mistakes, where we would put all our eggs in one basket by motivating and just looking at international arrivals.

When travel sanctions were imposed on this country on the back of the disjuncture, between this country and other sources of international arrivals, we ended up being caught flat-footed. We have come now with a thrust where we say charity begins at home but it must be a function of a class that can afford the holiday experience.

Another extension of the domestic market which is currently in orbit Mr. Speaker Sir includes the diaspora. Depending on whom you are talking to, there could be as many as three million Zimbabweans living outside the country. These three million people now constitute our middle class that is in orbit. They are not located here but they like to come and do a holiday back home.

We must put incentives in place and I cannot wait Mr. Speaker Sir, for the day when we can bring in Air Zimbabwe, so that it goes and sucks back our citizens from London for the holiday that they have always wanted to enjoy.

Fifty-one percent of our arrivals globally arrive by air and Zimbabwe is no exception. The economic action actually starts on board. It starts when you buy the air ticket. So, to the extent that we licence as many aircrafts and as many international carriers as we are doing today; as long as our own national carrier is not afloat to be part of this chain, it means we are missing this revenue that is almost 40 percent of tourism arrivals expenditure.

We intend to motivate the diaspora through come back home campaigns and no wonder when the minister visits international source markets, there is always the traditional address to the diaspora to incentivise them to come back home, visit and invest.

I dream Mr.Speaker Sir, starting with the Victoria Falls, of a diaspora village where we can mop that investment. For many of us here, we may not know, the diaspora annual transfers are now going up to about US$1.6 billion, but this is money –

This is money that is coming for subsistence support for the extended family. We want to tap the additional income by motivating investment. So, the domestic tourism plan will be furnished in writing to Parliament in addition to what I have already shared with you.

As to the cost of the product, which I cannot live this podium without addressing, why tourism resort areas are charging exorbitant fees for local entries, for example, the Victoria Falls? This is exactly the reason why Government, in trying to address mischief number one in our economy today is national pricing.

The United States dollar has been misunderstood post 2008, in terms of its purchasing power parity. What it buys locally is just ten percent of what it will buy in South Africa and elsewhere. This mischief is not just localised to tourism.

It is a systemic evil in our society which must be addressed from all angles, starting with the person who produces tomatoes and onions, if we are going to open windows for our farmers to supply animal based and agricultural products into the hospitality industry. We are not saying, buying Zimbabwe is buying expensive. So, we must go back to the drawing board.

Mr. Speaker Sir, I am happy to inform you that I am part of a committee that will be meeting tomorrow afternoon to interrogate national pricing before I can come back with an answer that will respond to this specific question.

I cannot answer it unilaterally. It is a systemic issue that must be addressed at system level by all segments of Government, including the man on the street to comprehend and fully understand the value of the United States dollar before we can start charging service to each other.

It is in this country where you buy a hamburger at the most expensive price, sometimes at the value of US$15 but a hamburger is just US$1 elsewhere. We seek to cure this mischief but it must be cured at a consolidated level of an Inter-Ministerial Committee which is what we will be doing tomorrow afternoon.

I thank you.


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Charles Rukuni
The Insider is a political and business bulletin about Zimbabwe, edited by Charles Rukuni. Founded in 1990, it was a printed 12-page subscription only newsletter until 2003 when Zimbabwe's hyper-inflation made it impossible to continue printing.


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