Zimbabwe needs to change its immigration policies and relax its visa requirements to allow more visitors and investors to come into the country without hassles ahead of the United Nations World Tourism Organisation General Assembly in August, a Cabinet minister has said.
Tourism and Hospitality Industry Minister Walter Mzembi said there was a need for a paradigm shift to allow the immigration regime to be altered and bring friendlier visa policies into play.
Minister Mzembi made the remarks when he addressed students attending the Joint Command and Staff Course Number 26 on Revival of the Tourism and Hospitality Industry in Zimbabwe at the Zimbabwe Staff College in Harare yesterday.
Zimbabwe and Zambia won the bid to jointly host the 20th session of the United Nations World Tourism Organisation General Assembly scheduled for August 24 to 29.
"Even Europe has also understood the importance of breaking down visa barriers and has even gone to the extent of allowing only one visa to allow travellers easy movement into 27 countries within the block," Minister Mzembi said.
"Immigration is tied up with investment and the turn-around of any economy. Similarly, Zimbabwe needs an immigration regime that polishes its friendships with the rest of the world without infringing on its integrity."
Tourism contributes 9,9 percent to the Gross Domestic Product and has been duly identified as one of the pillars for the development of the economy.
The sector is expected to contribute revenue in excess of US$5 billion by 2015 and employ one person out of every 12 people instead of the current one person out of 10 ratio.
Minister Mzembi also dispelled fears that the general elections scheduled for later this year would affect Zimbabwe's hosting of the UNWTO General Assembly.
"My prayer at the moment is that the elections are held sometime before June so that we have time to position our post-election government for the world to see," said Minister Mzembi.
The UNWTO conference, he said, was an occasion for Zimbabweans to market the country as a peaceful destination for investment.
"It will also be a time to unveil our post-election government to the global community. The occasion will also create a global platform for the endorsement of Zimbabwe as a country with a vibrant democratic system that has allowed three different political parties to work together and come up with a constitution that will pave the way for the creation of an even better business environment," he said.
He said he had just returned from Madrid, Spain where he had been bombarded with questions on the safety of hosting the UNWTO conference in the wake of general elections in Zimbabwe especially in the light of adverse publicity the country has been receiving from its detractors.
"I told everybody who asked me that question that Zimbabwe had the capacity to do it," he said.
There are high expectations that over 400 international businesses would attend the global event with a view to seeking investment opportunities in the country.