ZIMBABWE is expected to realise increased tourist visitors under the Sadc tourism Free Trade Area owing to reduced tour costs and relaxed transboundary conditions among the five member countries constituting the regional tourism FTA.
This follows the commissioning by Southern African Development Community member countries of a study into the possibility of a tourism FTA with results showing overwhelming support by the Sadc member states. Aspects of the tourism were then implemented during the 20th session of the United Nations World Tourism Organisation General Assembly co-hosted by Zimbabwe and Zambia in August this year and the outcome was a huge success.
Project co-ordinator of the Regional Tourism Organisation of Southern Africa Mrs Rose Mukogo said after the success of the pilot project of the FTA during the UNWTO General Assembly, members were now spreading it across the region.
“The results of the UNWTO pilot project between Zimbabwe and Zambia showed it allowed free travel between the two countries without use of visas. This has created encouragement regional implementation,” Mrs Mukogo said.
Already, Livingstone and Victoria Falls have been identified as tourism hotspots, as they were strategically position for the pilot test of the Sadc tourism FTA. Mrs Mukogo said financial resources had been constraining programmes aimed at assessing the viability of the proposal, but funding that was provided by the World Bank has allowed Zimbabwe and Zambia to work on the project.
When fully operational the Sadc tourism FTA would allow opening up of national borders, common tourist documents for cross boundary movement, hustle free movement, lower expenses and relaxed licensing for tour operators.
This could result in an upsurge in tourist arrivals, as the destinations will be more accessible in what is also expected to boost regional tourism trade and investment.
The secretariat of Retosa, Sadc’s tourism promotion arm, commissioned the study to find out barriers and bottlenecks to growth and development of tourism in the region.
“The Retosa secretariat would like to advise all member states that with the funding for from the Centre for Development Enterprise, Green Tourism Services has been engaged as a consultant to carry out a study on barriers or bottlenecks to regional tourism growth and development,” Retosa said in 2011. The Sadc Retosa member countries comprise Angola, Botswana, Democratic Republic of Congo Lesotho, Malawi, Mauritius, Mozambique, Namibia Swaziland, Tanzania, Seychelles, South Africa, Zimbabwe and Zambia.