After almost landing the United Nations World tourism organisation secretary general post, falling two votes shy of victory in May, Tourism and Hospitality Minister Dr Walter Mzembi is a success story in his own right.
Dr Mzembi made history by becoming the first African to get that close to landing the UNWTO top post.
Instead of quitting, he has taken the unsuccessful bid like a man and carried his popular strategy, which was at the core of his campaign, back home.
In an interview with Business Weekly, Dr Mzembi said he was pushing to domesticate his campaign strategy and change the face of Zimbabwe’s tourism.
This is no stroll in the park given a myriad of challenges ranging from infrastructure gaps to security concerns.
“I am going to implement whatever promise I made to the world which earned me votes until the end of my tenure which is marked by the 2018 elections,” Dr Mzembi said.
“The domestic elements will be pushed from Zimbabwe into Sadc and the rest of Africa in that order,” Dr Mzembi said.
Dr Mzembi’s campaign touched on a number of factors including global resource mobilisation and promoting tourism sustainability. Key projects will include the tabling of a tourism master plan which is expected to act as a dashboard for the sector.
The minister is also seeking to successfully redefine tourism to the consuming public beyond its generally acknowledged meaning of leisure exclusive to the rich to a new business element that covers cultural tourism, religious tourism and culinary tourism and accessible to the general public.
“We want manufacturing tourism and mining tourism for instance. This shows everything is tourism in a country and when everything is working there is some benefit that accrues to tourism,” Dr Mzembi said.
The country, the minister said, needs facilitation to improve the environment in areas of security and infrastructure.
“When we make statements against roadblocks, we are not targeting anyone or seeking a tiff with the ZRP. We are just saying we need to be mindful, we are not saying there should be no roadblocks but we need to manage them well and also re-brand them,” he said.
“When we make noise about inefficiency at immigration we want them to do better and speak to international civil aviation standards of e-passports, e-visas and e-boarders by 2020.
We want to move away from physical roadblocks to e-policing. We can have a continuous belt of gadgets that fine you from Harare to Beitbridge peacefully,” Dr Mzembi added.
This, he said, is part of a broader strategy expected to expand the tourism product and at the same time contribution of the tourism sector to $5 billion by 2020.
Currently, Dr Mzembi said, Zimbabwe’s tourism sector contributes $1 billion to the economy, far below its full potential due to a myriad of challenges.
“We need infrastructure enables, our road infrastructure is in a bad state and most of our roads are impassable. Our airports, excerpt for the top three do not operate after 6pm.
We need an Air Zimbabwe that works, we need our own airline not this business of depending on other airlines that have their own strategy and thrust and I hope what we are told is happening in terms of restructuring at Air Zimbabwe bears fruit.”