GOVERNMENT is planning to dispatch tourism attachés in key global markets in a fresh push to rebuild the free-falling industry that has been hard hit by COVID-19, NewsDay Business can reveal.
Tourism attachés will be deployed to New Delhi, the Indian capital, Paris in France, New York in the United States of America, London in England, Berlin, Germany, Japan and South Korea, as well as Durban and Johannesburg in South Africa.
Shanghai in China will also get representation.
Tourism, which used to generate about US$2 billion for the economy annually, suffered the sharpest knock after global economies came close to collapse as the COVID-19 pandemic ripped nations apart last year, grounding airlines and denting international travel.
The heat was felt more across southern Africa’s tourism dependent economies, with arrivals into Zimbabwe plummeting by 90% in the 10 months of 2020 as governments directed citizens to stay indoors and avoid a deadly contagion, according to Zimbabwe Tourism Authority (ZTA) data.
At an average 12% occupancy rate, Zimbabwe’s hotels have slipped into the red zone.
Operators recently pleaded with government to inject up to US$100 million to save jobs and businesses, after a $500 million bailout announced last year failed to materialise.
But official documents obtained by NewsDay Business indicated that the Environment, Climate, Tourism and Hospitality Industry minister was already looking beyond the scourge that has infected over 127 000 Zimbabweans since March 2020, killing over 4 560 others.
However, before rolling out the programme, which kicked off with the deployment of provincial tourism officers across Zimbabwe last week, the ministry on Friday began scouting for eligible tourism experts to take up the posts.
Staff from the ZTA and ZimParks are among those earmarked for the jobs, with their mandates stretching beyond work as tourism ambassadors to international relations experts representing the government of Zimbabwe across several spheres.
They will report directly to Tourism permanent secretary Munesu Munodawafa and ZTA acting chief executive officer Givemore Chidzidzi.
The attaches will be required: “To promote Zimbabwe as a tourism destination and represent the interests of the country within the market area.
“The job entails working with the travel, trade, media sector, governments, airlines, international co-operating partners as well as existing and potential tourism investors.
“Interface with the host governments over tourism issues and continuously re-engage the international community to improve relations and protect the interests of Zimbabwe.
“Aggressively market and rebrand Zimbabwe and to facilitate tourism arrivals through, for example negotiation of innovative incentive packages, relaxation of visa requirements in line with the Transitional Stabilisation Programme and Vision 2030.
“Promote tourism and devise tourist development initiatives/campaigns with the aim of generating and increasing revenue”.
This is not the first time government has dispatched attaches across the world.
At various stages in the past decade, such officers have been deployed to rebuild the country’s tourism sector, but they have found the going tough as the country’s bad boy tag on the international markets has held back arrivals.
It is this soiled brand that the new attachés are expected to mend and help reshape global images of a Zimbabwe in perpetual turmoil.