Anxiety hits tourism players as RBZ conducts visits

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BERNARD MPOFU

Tourism players have been gripped by anxiety after the Reserve Bank of Zimbabwe this month carried on-site inspections, a development that evoked yesteryear memories when the apex bank raided foreign currency accounts at the height of the country’s economic meltdown.

Sources in the sector this week told Business Times that officials from the central bank’s Exchange Control division visited several operators two weeks ago requesting statistics on receipts from foreign tourists at a time the country is facing one of its worst economic situations since adopting the multi-currency system 10 years ago.

“Every month operators submit this type of information to the Zimbabwe Tourism Authority but many are suspicious on why the Reserve Bank is now requesting for the same information that ZTA has,” a manager at one operation in Masvingo said.

Zimbabwe abandoned its local unit for a basket of foreign currencies mainly dominated by the United Stated dollars to tame runaway inflation which had officially reached 231 million percent in 2008.

Hospitality Association of Zimbabwe president Innocent Manyera said his organisation is yet to be apprised on this.

“As an association, we have not yet received such communication yet unless it came through the Zimbabwe Tourism Authority,” Manyera said.

RBZ governor John Mangudya could not be reached for comment as his phone went unanswered. Questions sent to him were not responded to. Contacted for comment ZTA spokesperson Godfrey Koti said he would respond to questions asked by this paper. There was no response from the authority at the time of going to print.

Tourism is this year recovering with capacity utilisation climbing to 50 percent by year end despite a plethora of factors hampering growth.

Government has committed to take over the central bank’s $1,1 billion debt — owed to banks, the private sector and non-governmental organizations — to remove the encumbrance and allow it to play its role as the lender of last resort.

The apex bank raided FCAs at the height of the country’s hyperinflationary era thereby dampening confidence in the financial services sector.

Under the National Tourism Recovery and Growth Strategy – Vision 2025, government seeks to regain lost market share in the traditional markets of Europe, America, Australia and Japan, penetrate new markets in Eastern Europe, China and India in Asia as well as growing the domestic market so as to enhance the contribution of tourism to the national economy.

“The target is to increase tourist arrivals from the anticipated 2.7 million in 2018 to over 5.5 million by 2023 as well as growing tourism receipts from US$1 billion in 2017 to US$3.5 billion by 2023,” Finance minister Mthuli Ncube projected in his 2019 National Budget.