Chinhoyi — Government-initiated Ease of Doing Business reforms are key to repositioning the country’s tourism industry to contribute to the overall economic growth and turnaround, Tourism and Hospitality Industry Minister Dr Walter Mzembi has said.

With an ambitious target of building a $5 billion tourism industry, which will contribute 15 percent of the country’s GDP sustained by 5 million tourist arrivals by 2020. Dr Mzembi said the Ease of Doing Business programme was a pillar upon which the targets would be met.

The Office of the President and Cabinet launched the Ease of Doing Business initiative this year, to fine-tune the business playing field to make it attractive and easy for those willing to invest in various sectors of the economy.

Speaking at the Hospitality Association of Zimbabwe congress in Kariba recently, stakeholders said negative perceptions about the country would subside with the effective implementation of the programme.

In a speech read on his behalf by Tourism and Hospitality Industry permanent secretary Mrs Florence Nhekairo, Dr Mzembi said there were positive gains registered in the industry so far.

“The results of the Ease of Doing Business programme has gone a long way in focusing the resolution of issues affecting the industry and also addresses the theme of the congress of ‘Economic Recovery through Hospitality and Tourism’,” said Dr Mzembi.

“While all the sectoral challenges mentioned are on the table for consideration by my Ministry, it would be remiss of me not to applaud the efforts by Government through the Ease of Doing Business initiative coordinated by the Office of the President and Cabinet.”

 Stakeholders expressed concern at the numerous roadblocks as having a negative impact on self-drive tourism for both domestic and regional travellers. A tourism consultant Dr Wouter Hensens from South Africa, said Zimbabwe had an excellent tourism product and Government needed to continue working towards removing barriers inhibiting its growth.

“Zimbabwe has many products including a strong cultural experience, which needs to be complemented by good connectivity, which means more airlines making travel to the destination cheaper,” he said.

Dr Hensens said Government also needed to streamline the industry so that it was not comparatively expensive than other regional countries.

Hospitality and Tourism Association of Botswana public relations and marketing manager, Miss Tebogo Oletile, said Zimbabwe was a victim of negative publicity.

“What I read and watch on television about Zimbabwe gives you the impression that people are killing each other and it’s a ruin, but my visit here has left me wondering if it’s the same Zimbabwe they will be talking about,” she said.

Miss Oletile said the country’s Ease of Doing Business model was worth reviewing for possible consideration and recommendation to authorities in that country.

Dr Mzembi called for concerted effort to restore the former glory of Kariba as a tourist destination, second to Victoria Falls. He said innovative and sustainable ways should be found to resuscitate the resort.