Bulawayo tourism market not fully utilised: Minister Ndlovu

By ZBC Reporter
THE Bulawayo tourism market is not being fully exploited and stakeholders need to establish long-term investments and come up with robust marketing initiatives to increase the city’s contribution to the US$6 billion tourism economy by 2023, a Cabinet Minister has said.
Environment, Climate, Tourism and Hospitality Industry Minister, Mangaliso Ndlovu, said this while addressing delegates during a tourism indaba held in Bulawayo yesterday.
“We need to plan accordingly and develop a long-term strategy, which should be in tandem with the projected future growth of tourism under the projected US$6 billion tourism economy by 2023,” he said.
“The ultimate solution, therefore, lies in more investments in hotel rooms, which must be accompanied by more robust marketing initiatives, to ensure full utilisation of such rooms throughout the year.”
Minister Ndlovu said Bulawayo was endowed with a diversity of attractive tourism heritage sites. The city and its surroundings are known for their unique tourism taste, and yet this market has not been fully exploited, he said.
“Bulawayo offers a complete tourism package with its own cultural heritage, museums and monuments, parks and wildlife and nearby historic sites such as Khami Ruins and Old Bulawayo, among others,” said Minister Ndlovu.
“It is indisputable that the multi-cultural city of Bulawayo has given birth to several internationally acclaimed performing arts groups such as Inkululeko Yabatsha School of Arts (Iyasa) and the Zambezi Express, among others.”
The Minister also noted that Bulawayo has the privilege of hosting the annual Zimbabwe International Trade Fair (ZITF) and a number of arts festivals, fairs and events.
“With regards to the ZITF, we take note of the apparent mismatch between the installed exhibition capacity of the ZITF grounds and the available 700 hotel rooms that Bulawayo has.
“Indeed, this mismatch between demand and supply gives birth to the perennial problem we always have whenever Bulawayo hosts the ZITF,” he said.
The Minister said Government and the Zimbabwe Tourism Authority (ZTA) continue to work with private homeowners in Bulawayo to certify them as accommodation providers for events such as ZITF, Sanganayi/ Hlanganani Tourism Expo and Mine Entra among others. Taking into account accommodation challenges in Bulawayo during events such as the trade fair, Minister Ndlovu said it was important for Government to support developmental plans by the ZITF Company and other private sector players as they are key in growing the tourism sector going forward.
“Our action plan should also focus on what is needed to scale up festivals, which used to take place in and around Bulawayo which are critical for both domestic and international travel into the city,” he said.
“It should be of concern to note that a number of festivals among them the Intwasa Festival, the Ibumba Festival and many others have scaled-down and no longer attract the same numbers they used to in the past.”
Minister Ndlovu said the rehabilitation of Old Bulawayo, itself a citadel of rich history and heritage, has not progressed well. “We look forward to the completion of this work to restore this asset on the tourism packages,” he said.
To address some of the bottlenecks in the tourism sector, Minister Ndlovu said Government was championing equitable and inclusive socio-economic development and devolution.
Against this background, he said, it was imperative that the public and private sectors are at the centre-piece of the tourism development discourse for Bulawayo. Minister Ndlovu noted strides towards improving the connectivity of Bulawayo and linking it up with other regional destinations and local tourism destinations.
“Increased access is no doubt a pre-requisite as revival of this will also help the city as a conference destination,” he said.
Government is already seized with efforts to turnaround Air Zimbabwe following the recent acquisition of a Boeing 777 Aircraft and efforts to complete the registration process of the Embraer ERJ145 aircraft.
“The latter is the ideal aircraft to ply local routes and will ease pressure on the airline’s serviceable plane which has been servicing all routes,” said Minister Ndlovu.
The tourism indaba was attended by key players in the tourism sector from both the public and private sectors.
The interface underlines the Government’s policy thrust, which is to ensure that the development of tourism is nurtured and sustained in all regions where tourism has the potential to thrive.
“We seek to achieve equitable tourism growth and to ensure that as many people’s lives as possible are transformed through tourism,” said Minister Ndlovu.