‘Tourism sector the next target’

THE tourism sector is the next target of the current indigenisation thrust, businessdigest can reveal.

Taurai Mangudhla

A new tourism policy aimed at changing the face of the growing sector through various provisions, including mandatory local majority ownership of companies, is to be unveiled next month, Tourism minister Walter Mzembi said in an interview.

The provisions –– expected to send fresh shockwaves, mostly among foreign investors who are already wary of losing their shareholding after government fast-tracked compliance in the mining sector and is now moving to the banking sector –– are in line with the country’s Indigenisation Act.

The Act compels all foreign-owned companies to relinquish at least 51% shareholding to indigenous players through various schemes, including employee and community share ownership trusts.

Addressing journalists after receiving an 11-member Indian government delegation on a follow-up visit on investment discussions, Mzembi said companies that did not comply with the law risk losing their operating licences.

Although the biggest local tourism players are indigenous, a good number of midsized companies are majority or wholly-owned by foreigners or by Zimbabweans who do not qualify as previously disadvantaged prior to 1980, as dictated by the Indigenisation Act.

“The tourism industry is worth about US$5,2 billion in assets and I am saying part of it should be transferred to our locals through indigenisation,” Mzembi said, adding the government had already devised a “smart” process to ensure companies are only licensed upon full compliance with the Indigenisation Act.

“I am simply sounding a warning bell because we don’t want any casualties. They should comply or risk losing their operating licences,” added Mzembi.

He said under the new policy, farmers would be granted operator licences for game reserves, lodges, tea bars or restaurants as long as they met licensing requirements to compliment farming activities especially during bad seasons.

“We have also seen that it takes private players 10-15 years to construct a high rise building that is a benefit to the economy, so we are proposing that government secures funding to erect shell assets that are then finished to specifications of tenants or owners,” added Mzembi.

In terms of specific infrastructure projects, Mzembi said government had already allocated 1 200 hectares of land along the Victoria Falls airport road for construction of a modern theme park.

“We are currently using the UNWTO (United Nations World Tourism Organisation) general assembly in August as an opportunity to secure investment for construction projects on the prime virgin land,” he said.

The Tourism ministry was by end of this week expected to have signed a memorandum of understanding with the Indian delegation on specific project areas.

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