By Southern Times Correspondent
Zimbabwe's tourism industry is a key building bloc towards the country’s vision to become a middle income economy by 2030, Vice President Kembo Mohadi has said, and called for increased youths participation in the sector.
Officially opening the Africa Youth in Tourism Conference in Bulawayo last week, he said the tourism industry contributes significantly to the economy by eradicating poverty and creating employment through the provision of sustainable livelihoods.
“Zimbabwe envisages itself as an upper middle class economy by 2030 and the development of tourism industry will be a key building bloc. Further empowering and participation of young entrepreneur in tourism sector should never be underestimated,” he said.
Zimbabwe boasts of world renowned tourist atttraction sites like the Victoria Falls, Hwange National Park, Lake Kariba, Gona reZhou National Park, the Eastern Highlands and Matobo National Park.
It also shares the Kavango Zambezi Transnational Conservation Area (KAZA) with Botswana, Angola, Namibia and Botswana, the Great Limpopo Transnational Park with Mozambique and South Africa and Greater Mapungubwe Transnational Park with Botswana and South Africa.
The country is home to the big five wild animals - lion, elephant, rhino, leopard and buffalo.
Mohadi said the Africa Youth in Tourism Conference came at a time Zimbabwe's tourism industry had demonstrated the potential to stimulate economic growth while also contributing to the preservation of the eco-system.
“The tourism sector is a critical player in safeguarding the cultural heritage as well as empowerment of local communities,” he said, noting that since the 1990s the sector has been contributing significantly to Africa’s economic growth and employment creation.
“Global average total contribution of tourism to Gross Domestic Product increased from $69 billion in 1995 to $166 billion in 2014. In Africa tourism generated more than 21 million jobs on average between 2011 and 2014, which translates to 7,1 percent of the total number of jobs in Africa.”
Mohadi said the tourism industry was among the sectors that Government had identified to play a critical role in providing decent jobs as the country strives to transform the economy.
Government has also promulgated the National Tourism Master Plan and the National Tourism Sector Strategy as tools to promote the growth and development of the industry.
“This grouping (youth in tourism) is important in the realisation of this strategy. The sector will not realise the growth it deserves without applying research and there are many areas that you need to investigate and new methodologies interrogated,” he said.
In a speech read on her behalf by the Minister of Information, Publicity and Broadcasting Services Monica Mutsvangwa, First Lady Auxillia Mnangagwa, who is patron of the Zimbabwe Youth in Tourism, implored delegates to share their experiences and discuss issues that enhance their participation in the sector.
“We have heard on numerous occasions that tourism is a low-hanging fruit. I want to appeal to the Ministry of Environment, Tourism and Hospitality that this statement will not be fulfilled unless there is better and meaningful participation of the youths in the sector.
“The positive economic impact of the sector that are being enjoyed by the bigger players should also trickle down to the youths, and this way we would know that this statement has been fulfilled. Hence we call for more linkages between the youths and large tourism players across the sector’s value chain,” she said.
The conference, which ran under the theme, “Fostering Tourism Development and Innovation in Africa through Youth Participation”, was attended by local and foreign delegates from Angola, South Africa, South Sudan, Botswana, Mozambique and Kenya.
The First Lady also challenged the youths in tourism to apply for the $15 million tourism revolving fund availed by the Government through the Reserve Bank to promote the growth of the tourism industry.
The idea of the revolving fund, which was unveiled in January this year, was mooted in 2016 following challenges cited by industry players to access funds to develop their business.