VICE President Constantino Chiwenga yesterday said Government will place high priority on the review and appropriate amendment of the visa regime in its work plan for the first 100 days to develop and facilitate the ease movement by tourists.

In his address at the Stakeholder Consultative Workshop for the National Tourism Sector Strategy at HICC, he highlighted contributions by the tourism sector in the country’s economy and the plans by the United Nations World Tourism Organisation” (UNTWO) in the industry.

“Tourism is undoubtedly a key sector of our national economy that has been contributing significantly to national income, foreign exchange and employment generation.

“UNTWO forecast that by the year 2030, internationally, annual tourist arrivals will reach 1.8 billion, whilst in Africa arrivals are expected to grow from 58 million to 134 million per year.

“Currently, Zimbabwe is earning over US$800 million from tourism activities and the sector employs around 30000 people directly and indirectly,” he said.

VP Chiwenga said the opportunity also assured the tourism industry of Government’s commitment to its demands.

“The envisaged strategy should, inter-alia, see the emergence of competitive and sustainable tourism that offers unique value to tourists, leveraged on the distinct advantages of Zimbabwe’s natural and artificial attractions.

“This workshop has been convened at the appropriate time as we seek to develop an overarching strategic framework that will enable Zimbabwe to regain its vibrant tourism status.

“The government on its part, is committed to creating the requisite conducive political and socio-economic environment to make the country’s tourist destinations competitive and appealing to both local and foreign tourists,” said the Vice President.

He also outlined some of the measures taken by Government so far to improve tourists’ influx in the country.

“While concerns have been raised about unwarranted delays and challenges faced by tourists as they arrive at our ports of entry, I am pleased to point out that the Ministry of Home Affairs and Culture has responded positively by committing to expedite the e-government programme.

“This will entail, among others, the issuance of instant Visas at every port of entry in a bid to improve efficiencies.

“The Beitbridge Border Post which is on the North-South Corridor in SADC and COMESA and the busiest gateway from South Africa is a number one priority under the Government’s first 100 days plan for easing congestion at ports entry.

“The Central Bank is vigorously pursuing strategies to put in place a lasting solution but collectively we all need to increase our productivity and efficiency for realisation of sustainability.

“The government is also refurbishing roads in most tourist resorts to ensure that we promote drive through tourism.”

He added:

“I am delighted that Victoria Falls International Airport has been upgraded to handle more traffic and larger aircraft to ease access by international travelers and tourists to the Majestic Victoria Falls from the Zimbabwean side of our mighty Zambezi River.

“The upgrade has not only improved the handling capacity of the International Airport from 500 000 to 1.5 million tourists annually but enabled the airport to handle wide bodied aircraft thereby boosting the appeal of the airport to new airlines.

“I’m advised that through the National Handling Services, concerted efforts are underway to acquire new state-of-the-art equipment to improve aircraft and baggage handling to make tourist experience more memorable.”

The event was graced by Minister of Tourism and Hospitality Hon Priscah Mupfumira, Minister of State for Harare Metropolitan Province Mirriam Chikukwa, Harare Mayor Benard Manyenyeni, Secretary for Tourism and Hospitality Industry Dr. Thokozile Chitepo and President of the ZCT Tich Hwingwiriri among captains of the industry.