Senior STAFF WRITER
THE government has partnered International Finance Corporation (IFC) — a member of the World Bank Group — to launch the Victoria Falls Area Tourism Development Plan in a bid to boost tourism in and around Victoria Falls and help strengthen Zimbabwe’s tourism industry.
This comes as the Tourism ministry recently launched a US$5 billion National Tourism Recovery and Growth strategy in a bid to boost the tourism sector in the wake of the coronavirus (Covid-19) pandemic.
It also comes as Zimbabwe was recently listed by a US travel and tourism agency Tourlane as the safest place to visit in the world when countries reopen borders for international travel after Covid-19 restrictions.
In a statement, IFC said the Victoria Falls Area Tourism Development Plan was part of the multi-year Zimbabwe Destination Development Programme (ZDDP), an advisory programme launched in January and sponsored by the Tourism and Transport ministries as well as IFC to support the recovery of Zimbabwe’s tourism sector.
“This plan will establish a road-map to realise the growth potential of Victoria Falls and the wider area, including Masuwe, in a feasible, phased, and sustainable way. The plan will recommend detailed actions in areas such as data collection, marketing and skills development, infrastructure, and viable project investments.
“Victoria Falls, one of the world’s largest falls and most spectacular natural sites, is Zimbabwe’s main tourism hub and supports about 25 000 direct jobs. Travel restrictions imposed because of Covid-19 have collapsed global tourism, forcing businesses to retrench nearly 30 percent of tourism employees in the Victoria Falls area in recent months
“The programme will support concrete goal-setting and recommendations for achieving those goals over the next five years. The plan will be approved by the Government of Zimbabwe and inform future development of the tourism sector in the Victoria Falls wider area,” IFC said.
IFC added that Freedthinkers, a destination development firm, would lead the development plan process.
“This is an exciting opportunity for all stakeholders to build a new future for Victoria Falls. We believe in the power of many minds to co-create a generosity of ideas, to balance conservation with development, and to respect and promote a unique sense of place,” Freedthinkers chief executive officer Mike Freedman said.
Tourism ministry permanent secretary Munesu Munodawafa said the plan was needed to support the destination’s recovery from the Covid-19 crisis and build longer-term resilience and pathways to growth.
Meanwhile, Finance minister Mthuli Ncube launched the Victoria Falls Stock Exchange (VFEX) in Victoria Falls yesterday.
The VFEX, a wholly-owned subsidiary of the Zimbabwe Stock Exchange (ZSE), will trade exclusively in foreign currency starting on Monday.
Addressing delegates during the launch, Ncube said the establishment of the VFEX marked the beginning of the country’s journey towards the establishment of an offshore financial services centre in Victoria Falls and promotion of foreign investment.
“The establishment of the VFEX is one of the many initiatives implemented by the government of Zimbabwe to stabilise and grow our economy and attract foreign direct investment. The government of Zimbabwe is aware of the expectations from the international community in terms of repatriation of investments and with VFEX we hope to restore investor confidence in our capital markets.
“Investors will benefit from several fiscal and non-fiscal incentives that have been provided by my ministry such as lower taxes. Without doubt, Zimbabwe is open for business. Our government will continue to support the development of capital markets in Zimbabwe,” Ncube said.