The local tourism industry remains resilient and strong even after heavy battering by the Covid-19 global pandemic, with the industry having recorded investments in new tourism products to the tune of nearly US$100 million in the first nine months of this year.
This resilience is expected to help the country’s economy quickly recover and emerge from the devastation caused by Covid-19, with tourism being one of the major anchors of the national economy and growth prospects under Vision 2030.
Tourism took a heavy battering globally at the hands of Covid-19 which induced restricted movement across the world as nations shut their borders and plunged into different stages of lockdown to contain the pandemic.
Zimbabwe’s tourism sector has potential to quickly emerge out of the woods and inspire national economic growth in the post Covid-19 period.
Last Thursday, Environment, Climate, Tourism and Hospitality Industry Minister Mangaliso Ndlovu rallied academics, technocrats, students in tourism and renowned scholars to come up with strategies on expediting recovery of the tourism industry which is one of the key pillars under girding the national economy.
He was speaking as he officially opened the 2021 World Tourism Day Academic Symposium held at the Great Zimbabwe University’s Herbert Chitepo Law School.
Tourism for Inclusive Growth , was the theme for this year’s symposium.
At the symposium, academics and scholars in the sphere of tourism made presentations both physically and virtually in light of Covid-19, on how the tourism industry can quickly regain its footing after damage caused by the global pandemic.
The symposium, which is a precursor to the World Tourism Day commemorations set for Bindura on 27 September, also created a platform for notes sharing as pressure mounts on the training of local tourism students to create products that are able to solve some of the nagging challenges in the industry and spur growth in line with Vision 2030.
Minister Ndlovu said the local tourism potential has vast potential to quickly recover from effects of the global pandemic as evidenced by its resilience and resoluteness.
“I commend tourism players who have remained resolute and resilient in the wake of the Covid-19 pandemic which has seen us defying odds to register tourism investments worth US$97,6 million from January 2021 to date in new tourism products,” said Minister Ndlovu.
“I have no doubt that our sector will thus emerge stronger and ready to grow exponentially when Covid-19 finally turns the corner.”
Tourism arrivals into the country plummeted severely after the advent of Covid-19 to a low of only 639 359 last year’s a figure that was similar to arrivals recorded in 1991, about 30 years ago.
Minister Ndlovu said the thrust towards inclusive growth dovetailed with the nation’s growth agenda as nobody will be left behind.
This means besides tourism players, communities should also be part of the growth puzzle to make sure everybody was on board.
He said both consumers and producers of tourism products, together with those in the value chain of tourism products, were supposed to work together.
Minister Ndlovu challenged future symposiums to include presentations by students on work related learning in the tourism sector to establish whether or not their training enables them to grasp the unique selling points on the abundance and diversity of local tourism products.
Academia should in future provide scope to proffer solutions to problems caused by climate change on the tourism sector, which he said was the worst affected by the phenomenon.
Great Zimbabwe University Vice Chancellor Professor Rungano Zvobgo in his speech said the symposium created a platform for crafting ideas instrumental in the re-engineering and transformation of the national economy through jump-starting recovery and growth of the tourism industry post the Covid-19 pandemic.
Prof Zvobgo said the tourism industry was key in engendering wealth and employment creation, adding that the adoption of the Education 5.0 was key in making sure education proffered solutions to challenges in the industry and the economy in general.
According to Prof Zvobgo tourism was a low hanging fruit which could be banked up to stimulate economic recovery and growth after millions of people globally were plunged into poverty by the Covid-19 pandemic.
Masvingo Provincial Affairs and Devolution Minister Ezra Chadzamira, who was represented by the director in his office Mr Kudakwashe Machako noted that the tourism industry had potential to quickly help revive the province’s economy.
Minister Chadzamira singled out the Tugwi-Mukosi Dam as a tourism low hanging fruit that could anchor inclusive recovery and growth in the province.