‘We need affordable products’
Alpha Media Group
WINNIE Muchanyuka (WM) was recently appointed chief executive of the Zimbabwe Tourism Authority (ZTA). Our business reporter Tanyaradzwa Nhari (TN) spoke to Muchanyuka on various issues including the tasks and challenges she faces in her new role. Below are excerpts: TN: You have been working as the country manager of South African Airways for years. Why did you decide to quit and join the Zimbabwe Tourism Authority (ZTA)? WM: Indeed, I served the South African Airways for 22 years in various capacities. When I left the airline, I was acting regional manager for Southern Africa responsible for Zambia, Malawi, Namibia and Zimbabwe. Working for airlines gave me the opportunity to sit in leadership positions of the Tourism Business Council of Zimbabwe (TBCZ) where I became the president of the organisation. Having amassed so much experience, I felt the need to contribute more to Zimbabwe’s tourism sector by joining the Zimbabwe Tourism Authority, which is at the helm of the tourism sector. TN: What is your vision and focus as the new ZTA CEO in the short, medium and long term? WM: It's too early to say but as I settle into the role, I am fully aware that the key mandate of the ZTA is to promote and manage the destination. We also have a blueprint that is guiding us in our quest to achieve a US$5 billion tourism economy by 2025. These become my key areas of focus and I am positive that we will attain them. To break this down, we are faced with the need to promote domestic tourism, increase regional receipts as well as to prioritise Mice (meetings, incentives, conferences and exhibitions) tourism. TN: Which areas do you think require immediate attention in the tourism industry? WM: To work with enabling sectors, especially on accessibility. A destination that is not accessible becomes difficult to promote and is less appealing to potential tourists. It is therefore critical that our road and air networks talk to the needs of tourism for both the local and international visitor. The sector has been recovering well as evidenced by the performance of the first quarter, compared to the last 24 months. There has been significant growth in the domestic market, so naturally this becomes an area of interest and will have our attention. We will promote the ZimBho campaign. We will also be paying attention to Mice tourism promotion because we believe this is a green field. We are also trying to reposition the destination in the source markets to competitively appeal to the international traveller. Our investment saw a significant growth between 2020 and 2022 with a quantum of over US$100 million being spent on tourism development projects. This will be a position we seek to consolidate and improve. TN: In 2019, Zimbabwe’s tourism receipts were US$1,24 billion and after the Covid-19 pandemic spread globally in 2020, the country earned US$359 million. Last year, tourism receipts only rebounded to US$397 million, a near 11% uptick from 2020. How do you plan on getting ZTA to get the industry return to its pre-Covid-19 levels because that would require an increase of over 200%? WM: It is no secret that the Covid-19 pandemic wreaked havoc in the sector and saw us losing earnings of over US$1,2 billion. It is our plan to regain our lost position and surpass it. The National Tourism Recovery and Growth Strategy is our blueprint for building back better. In this plan, we have anchored everything on three pillars in order to achieve our set objectives and goals. These are domestic tourism, regional tourism and international tourism. We pay particular attention to domestic tourism development, promotion and culture change. This will help us to increase the earning capacity of the sector which in turn will aid the international receipts. We will use digital marketing as a tool to promote the destina tion to both local and international tourists. Our strategy will weigh on the promotion and hosting of Mice events to contribute to the total receipts. TN: Domestic tourism has long been a low hanging fruit and that mostly has to do with pricing, yet, so much potential lies in it. For example, in India, the Taj Mahal attracts significantly lower fees for locals as compared to foreigners and the numbers are balanced out in the increased numbers of Indians who visit the attraction. How do you plan to promote domestic tourism and deal with pricing issues? WM: I must say the ZimBho campaign has done well and we need to ride on its success to build sustainability. However, there is a need to cooperate more with industry so that they arrange promotions that suit the different market segments. As for pricing issues, these remain a point of engagement with industry to ensure that products are accessible and affordable and at the same time that industry remains viable. TN: Treasury has allowed 100% retention on forex proceeds for the sector to help it recuperate. Will this help and if so in what way? WM: Firstly, allow me to acknowledge the important role that the government has played in the recovery from the effects of the Covid-19 pandemic. Central government extended this 100% retention facility which will assist in the rebuilding of the sector through infrastructural development, job retention and the general day-today running of the sector. There are many inputs that the sector needs that require foreign currency and allowing players to retain forex revenue will assist them to meet those needs and most funds channelled towards upgrading of facilities. TN: What should players use these funds for, in your opinion? WM: We cannot exactly prescribe what they should use the funds for but it would be great if as a destination we focused on upgrading the product through refurbishments and training of personnel. The infrastructure needs attention in most areas and this may go a long way in the transformation of the product. TN: Pricing levies and charges are being affected by the continued depreciation of the Zimbabwean dollar. As a result, operators are feeling the effects as these costs are passed on to tourists. Can ZTA put forward a structure that does not leave operators potentially broke without sacrificing the authority’s revenues? WM: What needs to be understood is that the 2% levy is a statutory requirement not a ZTA requirement. It is a tax imposed on the consumer not the player. The player simply collects on behalf of the central government. Some of the issues are dealt with at macrolevel and are beyond the ZTA. We can only play our role as an authority to make a positive contribution to the economy. TN: There have been several promotions to promote Zimbabwe to locals. While that has helped increase domestic tourism the pace is still slow. Is there any plan you have to do things to promote local visits differently? WM: We believe that ZimBho has done well. We will continue to promote it countrywide. However, there is more that can be done towards growing domestic tourism and we are exploring the different promotional options. We have come up with several strategies that we will soon be unveiling. TN: Power cuts have become an issue for hotels. Just recently, we heard how the fivestar hotel, Meikles, is asking guests to use buckets for hot water. What are you doing to help hotels have alternatives when faced with power cuts? WM: That incident at the Meikles was a once-in-a-long-time one and rather unfortunate. Things have generally improved for power generation in the country and we will continue lobbying with the relevant authorities to get tourism products the priority they deserve. However, things should be put in a proper context; the power challenge was not confined to one entity. It was a problem that affected a portion of the CBD as the power utility announced. That single incident does not take away the glamour of the five-star hotel for which the grading covers a lot more than just that issue. As a country and even as a region that is having power shortages, we encourage operators to have backup power supply.