From herald.co.zw
22 July 2011

Zimbabwe subscribes, in principle, to the concept of a Sadc tourism Free Trade Area recently proposed by the Regional Tourism Organisation of Southern Africa, although Retosa is yet to engage Government on the project.

Tourism and Hospitality Minister Walter Mzembi confirmed Government was agreeable to the principle, but had not been formally engaged on the proposal.

“We have not been engaged and we will allow the consultant to carry out whatever she is doing. Government will take a policy position on the basis of her findings. But the world is advancing towards free zones and free trade.

“The devil is in the detail. Until we are furnished with the findings we cannot pronounce policy, but generally the principle is good,” said Minister Mzembi.

The minister pointed out that the elimination of bottlenecks in the movement of tourists across Sadc borders was the reason behind the push for a Sadc Uni-Visa.

In a correspondence to member countries Retosa said Green Tourism Services had been engaged as consultants to study barriers to regional tourism.

The study would also include examination of bottlenecks in the movement of tourists, movement of tourism capital/investment and tourism operators.

Retosa said the purpose of the study was to gather data from the member countries on the feasibility of tourism FTA starting with Zimbabwe tourism hotspot of Victoria Falls, Chobe in Botswana and Livingstone in Zambia.

If successful, the project will be replicated to other Sadc countries namely South Africa, Namibia, DRC, Tanzania, Mauritius, Angola, Malawi, Madagascar, Mozambique, Lesotho and Swaziland for full Sadc tourism FTA.

Already, Sadc has established an FTA for trade and is now working on a common customs union and the ultimate target will be to have a common monetary union.

Said Retosa: “The secretariat would like to advise all member states that with funding support of the Centre for the Development of Enterprise, Green Tourism Services has been engaged as the consultant to carry out the study”.

But while the Government has not been formally briefed on the matter Green Tourism Services, a local tourism consultant, has already held its first meeting with operators in Victoria Falls to gather their views on the FTA.

At the meeting held last month to discuss the idea the Sadc tourism FTA, the issue was received with mixed feelings.

The operators also pointed out a number of challenges they faced in conducting tourism activities in the region.

Notably, there was general apprehension the FTA would do Zimbabwe in more harm than good, as an influx of visitors could destroy the Victoria Falls-a exquisite tourist attraction that is however that needs to be handled carefully.

Tourism operators in Victoria Falls fear that exceptionally huge volumes of tourists would flock to the resort than to any other attraction in the region.

Concerns also centred on the different requirements by member countries, which made it a hustle for operators from Sadc countries to operate across borders.