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ZTA courts investors

Godfrey Marawanyika

CRISIS and foreign cash-hit Zimbabwe is sharpening its tourist attraction initiatives, as the state-run Zimbabwe Tourism Authority (ZTA) has unveiled an incentive-lin

ked tourist development zone (TDZ) programme, drawn on the lines of the export processing zones (EPZ) concept, officials told businessdigest this week.

Simba Mandinyenya, the tourism promotion agency’s director of research and development, said the TDZ concept was developed not only to attract investment in potential high-growth areas through specified incentives, but to contain negative publicity as well.

“We have suffered because of the negative publicity from the traditional markets, especially in Europe and other traditional source markets,” Mandinyenya said, declining comment on suggestions that the plan would be officially launched next year.

Refreshing the authority’s pronouncements that it had established marketing offices in China, France, South Africa and in the convenient future in Japan, he said the TDZ was aimed at providing a number of incentives for tourism investors to take up holdings in designated tourism zones.

“The major objective is to promote tourism development and ultimately economic development in areas with high potential, but which (areas) have remained for one reason or another underdeveloped,” the TDZ implementation document says.

Having assessed the tourism potential of certain areas or regions in the country, mainly the Lowveld basin, the ZTA singled out Beitbridge-Shashe-Limpopo area, the Gonarezhou-Chiredzi environs and Great Zimbabwe-Lake Mutirikwi region, as some of those potential TDZ areas.

There is also a feeling within government and ZTA that the TDZ concept bodes well with the transfrontier arrangement involving Zimbabwe, Mozambique and SA — such that preparatory development of the internal industry would only strengthen the country’s capacity when tourism claws back to life after six years of recession.

The TDZ concept is another idea, independent of Tourism minister Francis Nhema’s highly-secretive tourism development masterplan.

Under the newer TDZ plan, taxable income for investing operators in any designated area is rated at zero percent for the first five years, 15% for the next term and 20% thereafter.

After 15 years of operation, normal corporate tax rates will apply. Current corporate tax is 30%.

Zimbabwe, economically drained by its political fallout with Britain, the United States and greater Western bloc, has over the past few years tried to reach out to the East and the inception of tourism offices in mainly Far East countries confirms that policy shift.

This has seen desperate Harare courting China and Malaysia, among other Asian economic powerhouses, in bids to increase traffic between the two regions.

While it has won conditional approval, as demonstrated by Beijing’s approved destination status, Zimbabwe has been crowing about arrivals from these Eastern countries.

A look at the ZTA’s latest tourist arrival figures shows that a total of 1 271 904 visitors came to Zimbabwe between January and September, representing a 29% decrease when compared to the corresponding period last year.

In the period under review, the country received 254 842 visitors from mainly traditional source markets, with the highest number of people coming from the US at 37 054.

China, the new emerging market, contributed 10% of the visitors. On a comparative basis for the nine months of 2004, the highest increase was from China — at 392% — from 4 960 in 2003, but it can also be noted that there was a marked flow of reciprocal government and official delegations. The Carribeans also added to the with nearly 3 000 visitors.

Worried about possibilities of more stringent politically inspired travel requirements such as visas for visitors from mainly traditional western markets, the ZTA is also lobbying for a review of such a situation.

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