via Farmers to venture into tourism Sunday, 27 October 2013 by Lincoln Towindo for Sunday Mail
The Ministry of Tourism and Hospitality Industry will soon award agro-tourism licences to beneficiaries of the land reform programme and also facilitate the indigenisation of the tourism sector to transfer US$2,6 billion worth of business to indigenous Zimbabweans.
The licences will enable farmers to engage in agro-tourism businesses on their respective farms under Government’s value addition and beneficiation thrust. Among the business ventures are lodges, guest houses, restaurants and game parks.
A Statutory Instrument is also being crafted to ensure the 222 foreign tourism and hospitality players operating in the country comply with indigenisation requirements.
Speaking at the recent Zanu-PF Harare Province Indigenisation and Empowerment Workshop, Tourism and Hospitality Industry Minister Engineer Walter Mzembi said an initial group of 100 farmers per province will be licensed as agro-tourism operators early next year.
He said Government would unveil a multi-million-dollar revolving loan facility for the farmers.
“From next year, the ministry will begin licensing farm owners who benefited from the successful land reform programme to partake in various tourism ventures as part of our thrust to promote agro-tourism,” he said.
“The agro-tourism concept will enable foreigners to come and witness, first hand, the success of the land reform programme instead of learning about the programme from other avenues.
“Recently, President Mugabe allowed a delegation attending the United Nations World Tourism Organisation General Assembly in Victoria Falls to tour Gushungo Dairies and witness the success he has achieved at his farm.
“That, in itself, constitutes agro-tourism, a concept which we will be promoting over the next five years. As a starting point, at least 100 farms will be licensed per province and we will gradually increase the number of beneficiaries with time.”
Agro-tourism is an expansion of eco-tourism, which encourages visitors to experience farm life. The concept was popular post-independence when international tourists visited various agro-businesses across the country.
It is gaining interest from small farming communities across the globe as rural folk realise the benefits of sustainable development brought about by similar forms of nature tourism.
Under this type of tourism, visitors have the opportunity to wade knee-deep in the fields alongside farmers and their workers, among other activities.
Minister Mzembi said Government would soon gazette a Statutory Instrument compelling the 115 foreign operators in the tourism and hospitality industry to abide by the country’s indigenisation laws.
The indigenisation of the tourism and hospitality sector is expected to result in the transfer of US$2,6 billion worth of business to indigenous Zimbabweans.
A total of 107 foreign firms are operating hotels and lodges; 17 boats and house-boats; 18 safari and hunting; 19 hospitality business and 30 restaurants and casinos.
In addition, 13 foreigners are operating curios shops while 18 are registered as tour operators.
“The Statutory Instrument would compel all foreign operators to submit their compliance proposals immediately,” said the minister.
“The regulations would enable us to enforce compliance when the operators return for extension of their licences annually.”