The Matabeleland Collective, an umbrella body of civil society organisations from the region, says they will ride on President Emmerson Mnangagwa’s willingness to change economic policies and practices to push for the resuscitation of the tourism sector in the region.
The Collective echoed that complementing government’s efforts would help turnaround the country`s faltering economy, which was heavily affected by economic policies of the previous government.
In a compendium titled, Devolved Governance Plan for Inclusivity for Equalisation for Matabeleland compiled following a meeting with Mnangagwa, in March at the Statehouse in Bulawayo, the organisations said compensatory development of the tourism sector could be used to grow the economy in the region.
“Matabeleland is rich in tourists’ destinations from Victoria Falls, to Hwange National Parks, Matopo Hills, Khami Ruins and cultural centres in Bulawayo,” the collective noted.
Sibanda said tourism is recognized as a source of social and economic development that stimulates domestic consumption, employment and income.
“It can contribute to poverty alleviation employing skilled and semi-skilled workers with a bias to employing youth and women. Tourism has been found to be resilient and associated with generating foreign currency,” the document read.
“It is an export generator that is consumed at the source and key to growth. It is accessible by air, rail and road. Tourists are attracted to remote areas with high cultural values and heritage, wildlife and landscape assets.
“It has forward and backward linkages with industries like agriculture, art and craft, performing arts, manufacturing, banking and finance and transport.”
The collective reiterated an urgent need to address challenges facing the sector in the region which include lack of investment, poor accessibility networks and poor marketing support in a bid to make the sector viable.
“There is poor road infrastructure which in the near past was negatively impacted by excessive roadblocks as well as weak internal air connectivity which limits accessibility.”
The organisations called on the government to avail funding to support investment within the sector.
“The marketing support is weak domestically and internationally due to high regulatory costs making the sector less competitive regionally. The negative image of the country associated with western sanctions and illegitimate government also serve as a hindrance for the sector to thrive.”
The CSOs emphasised the importance of maintaining consistent policies to enhance the performance of the economy.
“CSOs could support the expansion of the sector through advocacy to eliminate adverse and excessive regulations and implementation of various policies from various studies. These could improve tourist arrivals and contribution of the sector to employment creation and foreign currency earnings.”