Zim moves to boost tourism receipts

ZIMBABWE has set plans in motion to boost tourism receipts by scrapping visas for tourists. 
Immigration principal director Clemence Masango said visas tend to cripple the number of tourists who can visit the country.

“As a country, we need to move away from visas to the extent possible and also not amplify too much of the revenue that we get from visa fees,” he said while giving an update on resumption of the Kaza uni-visa regime.

“The real benefit that accrues to any economy from tourism is what tourists spend when they come here, not the $50 visa fees.”

The Kaza uni-visa is a project between Zimbabwe and Zambia which was launched as a trial in 2014 and was discontinued a year later.

The visa, which grants tourists access to both Zambia and Zimbabwe, was re-launched last December.

The ultimate vision is to include all the five countries that are part of the Kavango Zambezi Transfrontier Conservation Area, commonly known as Kaza, which include Angola, Botswana, Namibia, Zambia and Zimbabwe, if the trial run is successful.

In 2016, the United Nations World Tourism Organisation (UNWTO) ranked Zimbabwe as one of the top 30 countries in the world that made major efforts to reduce travel restrictions and allow free movement of tourists in the past seven years.

During the same year, the government scraped visa requirements for citizens of the Southern African Development Community while 37 countries, including China, Turkey, Cuba, Algeria, Iran and others were moved from Category C to Category B.

The visa regime has three categories, namely A — in which citizens from selected countries are exempt from visa requirements, B — where citizens of the targeted countries apply for visas on arrival and C, where those falling in the group are required to apply for a visa while still in their home country.

Masango said a boost in tourist arrivals through scrapping visas had a multiplier effect on the rest of the economy in terms of job creation among others.

“This is the kind of broad thinking that we need when we talk about tourism visas, facilitation of travel and access to a destination,” he said.

Zimbabwe Council for Tourism representative for Matabeleland North, Barbara Murasiranwa said arrivals in Victoria Falls have since increased by about 15 percent since re-introduction of the visa regime.

“Arrivals into Victoria Falls via Zambia had gone down prior to the re-launch of the uni-visa, but right now arrivals improved significantly because tourists can just arrive in Zambia and then proceed to Zimbabwe after paying just 50 dollars and they can still go back to Zambia or Zimbabwe again without facing any problems for a month,” she said.
Victoria Falls is primed to receive more tourists after expansion of Victoria Falls Airport by a Chinese company at a cost of $150 million.

The expansion increased handling capacity to 1,5 million passengers per year, up from 500 000.

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