It is important for the tourism sector to highlight the bad effects of sanctions, which have resulted in low tourist arrivals, as the country marks the SADC Anti-Sanctions Solidarity Day on October 25, a Cabinet Minister has said.
Environment, Climate, Tourism and Hospitality Industry Minister Mangaliso Ndlovu was speaking during the Mashonaland West Tourism and Environment Indaba over the weekend, which came after a tour of Kariba Airport and tourism facilities in the resort town.
The illegal sanctions imposed on Zimbabwe by Western countries significantly crippled air travel into the country, with arrivals at Kariba Airport, for example, dropping from a peak of around 150 000 to slightly more than 3 000 people in 2003.
The figures increased significantly in 2018 and 2019, with the coming in of the New Dispensation and an intensified marketing drive through the re-engagement initiative.
Sadc has added its voice to growing calls for the lifting of the sanctions and last year declared October 25 as the SADC Anti-Sanctions Solidarity Day.
"We have not recovered from this setback, but we must," said Minister Ndlovu. "I am encouraged by the numbers in 2018 and 2019, clearly there is light ahead. I thus invite you to join the nation, the SADC region and indeed the African continent in calling for the removal of these illegal sanctions on October 25, a day set aside for this clarion call for international justice to have sanctions removed."
Sanctions, said Minister Ndlovu, had a negative impact on the livelihoods of the people as jobs were lost, hotels closed and there had been a general deterioration of the socio-economic fabric in towns such as Kariba.
He called for collective effort to come up with strategies to reverse their impact and set the sector on a growth trajectory.
Meanwhile, Fastjet is planning to introduce flights to Kariba, Hwange, Victoria Falls and Binga, with a possibility of resumption of flights between Kariba and Johannesburg.
FastJet accountable manager Mr Ed Berry said plans to service Kariba and the Zambezi River Basin were at an advanced stage.
"We have two CAAZ officers in South Africa inspecting two planes to be used on the Kariba-Victoria Falls, Kariba-Binga, Kariba-Hwange, Bumi Hills and Mola," he said.
"These are smaller aircraft, 14-seater aircraft, but we hope we will have them in the country within the next few months, two months at the most. The planes will be based in Victoria Falls."
The aircraft, said Mr Berry, was a temporary measure to service the domestic market, with plans to bring in bigger aircrafts that could carry up to 50 passengers.
With Government implementing the Tourism Recovery and Growth Strategy, accessibility of destination is a key element that is set to anchor the growth of the sector.
To that end, the Government has committed to rehabilitating at least 20km along the Harare-Chirundu and Makuti-Kariba roads as part of measures to improve accessibility of the resort town of Kariba.
The stretches have been badly damaged and have been cited as affecting tourist arrivals in the town in the absence of a reliable air transport.
The interventions are expected to position tourism in Mashonaland West province to contribute at least $500 million to the envisaged $5 billion industry by 2025.
Already, Cabinet has approved the establishment of the Victoria Falls-Binga Special Economic Zone which will spawn an integrated tourism resort in the Masuwe area of Victoria Falls, a National Park around the Gwayi-Shangani Dam and an eco-tourism park in Sijarira Forest around Lake Kariba.
Transport and Infrastructure Development permanent secretary Engineer Amos Marawa said Government has opened up the airspace to allow private players to service local routes.
"I know that Fastjet has been asking for traffic rights and we have said that let's open it up (airspace) so that we service the community and also allow for healthy competition," he said.
"Government recognises that a well-functioning national airline is a must and they are doing everything possible to re-equip the national airline and we want to believe that by next year they will have appropriate aircraft to also start operating on the domestic network and also regionally, which will ensure that we facilitate the tourism industry."
Government has earmarked the completion of 200 kilometres along the Beitbridge-Harare Road this year, with plans to start rehabilitation works of 20km along the Harare-Chirundu Road, especially near Nyamakate where the road has failed.
The project would be concluded by end of December with at least three other contractors expected to start working on 20km stretches along the highway beginning next year.
Mashonaland West provincial Affairs and Devolution Minister Mary Mliswa-Chikoka said the province has great potential to contribute to the tourism revenue of the country.