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Cresta Column – HAZ celebrates 60 years

By Francis Ngwenya

THIS year’s Hospitality Association of Zimbabwe (HAZ) congress is set for Montclair Casino Hotel in Nyanga on May 27 and 28.

sans-serif”>The event promises to be colourful and different and my plea is for all players in the hospitality industry to contribute to the success of this key event on the industry’s calendar through their presence and material support.

This year’s congress is also special in that it is being held at a time when the association is celebrating its 60th anniversary.

Indeed the association has evolved over the years from the days of the Bottle Store Association of Rhodesia in the 1940s to the days of the Hotel and Restaurant Association of Zimbabwe.

Unlike in previous years, the organisers have crafted a programme that addresses the key challenges faced by the industry.

The programme has been put together in such a way that there is adequate time to interact with key presenters, share views and get inspired.

Some issues can, however, not wait for congress. These include the new tariffs recently introduced by the Zimbabwe Electricity Supply Authority (Zesa).

There was a staggering 2 000% power increase for some hotel establishments.

As if that was not bad enough the same companies were slapped with a further United States dollar charge of up to 35%.

This has left most players in the sector with a feeling that “Cyclone Zesa” is definitely going to leave visible scars on the industry.

The initial reaction from the hospitality industry to the new Zesa bills were of anger and shock.

In desperation some hotel operators threatened to take drastic measures to remain in business such as refusing to take the foreign business that classifies them as exporters.

It is sad that the new Zesa tariffs have really taken away the incentive for one to make any serious attempt to generate foreign currency.

At present, the industry is at a stand-off with Zesa, which has threatened in writing to switch off power from some hotels if they do not pay the higher tariffs.

At the time of going to press the hotel operators in question had stand-by electricity generators that would automatically kick in when this happens.

I hope we never live to see the day that a hotel in Zimbabwe has a sign that reads: “No foreign guests allowed”.

Positive engagement with Zesa by HAZ and the Zimbabwe Council for Tourism is searching for practical ways of collecting foreign currency with attractive incentives being put in place for those who pay in hard cash.

Ongoing deliberations with key executives at Zesa are promising and, if we work together, we might see some positive results in the short-term.

Sustainable solutions direct us to the Reserve Bank of Zimbabwe and the new exchange control regulations.

I recall comments from a colleague in the industry soon after the monetary policy statement by the governor Gideon Gono.

The colleague said we should expect a bit of pain as the governor restored sanity to the economy.

But the last thing we expected was that Zesa would be abruptly weaned off the comfort of the RBZ foreign currency pool to become a burden for exporters including the tourism sector.

The RBZ has been kind enough to invite HAZ to some of the meetings they have had with stakeholders to discuss various issues emanating from the new monetary policy.

We have sought clarification on the rationale of letting Zesa fend for itself in terms of foreign currency and, likewise, the logic behind the decision not to allow the power utility to buy its foreign currency at the auction market.

Some of the suggestions we put forward were that they must increase the incentive element for customers paying in hard cash and that all importers must also be made to pay foreign currency-related bills.

In fact, importers must be made to pay more since they use most of the little foreign currency available.

Gono has accepted an invitation to address the HAZ congress in Nyanga and one hopes that he comes with a bag of sweets for the promising young industry to reward its players for good behaviour!

Francis Ngwenya is president of the Hospitality Association of Zimbabwe and operations director of Cresta Hospitality Zimbabwe.

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