By Gift Bhowa
THE Zimbabwe Youth in Tourism (ZYT), an organisation of young people in the tourism industry, is set to benefit from a US$15 million fund to be availed by the Reserve Bank of Zimbabwe (RBZ) in a bid to increase youth participation in both domestic and international tourism development.
Speaking to The Patriot, ZYT director Stewart Mutiza said RBZ will avail the funds to enhance youth projects aimed at developing and empowering young people in the country utilising their knowledge and skills to develop tourism in the country.
“We are dedicated to improving the quality of life of young people by facilitating their participation in the highly lucrative tourism industry which is a low hanging fruit that can transform lives and the economy in the short-term,” said Mutiza.
“As we are moving forward with our programme, we urge all the youths to participate in our economic transformation projects which will be funded by RBZ and other players.”
The funds will be used not just to support projects but develop entrepreneurship skills in the tourism industry to ensure sustainable development.
The decision to avail funds for youth projects development was announced during the 5th edition of Zimbabwe Youth in Tourism conference held last month in the capital.
Tourism has contributed significantly to the economy through eradicating poverty and creating employment.
It is also expected to transform the lives of youths, a majority of whom are not employed.
“These projects will create employment, offer career opportunities and create wealth for young people and the economy,” said Mutiza.
“We are encouraging students to take this opportunity to be part of tourism development, young people should know that tourism is not just about those who studied it but everyone with a passion for the sector can get into the industry.”
He said youths, through their projects, will help accelerate the growth of the tourism sector.
Since the ushering in of the new dispensation, the tourism industry has been on the rebound.
Tourist arrivals surged to 2,4 million in 2017 from 2,1 million in 2016 while earnings from the sector rose by 12 percent during the same period to around
Post-‘Operation Restore Legacy’ investments have also been encouraging, with mega projects lined up, among them the US$1,2 billion investment projects being bankrolled by the Dubai-headquartered Feonirichi.
Tourism and Hospitality Industry Permanent Secretary Munesu Munodawafa is on record saying the growth has been driven by the improved operating environment and investments in key enablers, in particular the US$150 million Victoria Falls International Airport upgrade.
“We are excited about the current growth of the travel and tourism industry which is being driven largely by the improved operating environment and investments in key infrastructure,” he said.
Tourism Business Council of Zimbabwe president Tich Hwingwiri is also on record saying the outlook is positive for the tourism industry and the bullish earnings from the sector can easily surge to over US$3 billion per annum.
“We need to redouble our efforts to cope with what we hope will be a sustained period of exponential growth,” he said.
The country’s premier tourist destination, Victoria Falls, has been leading the recovery of the sector with 20 percent growth in revenue as well as 18 new properties developed since the beginning of the year.
Tourism players in the resort town have also committed to expand their properties with new multi-million-dollar projects lined up for the destination.
Meanwhile, Government has embarked on a number of initiatives aimed at improving the livelihoods of youths in the country.
In July, it opened the Youth Empowerment Bank that will finance youth empowerment projects.
Qualifying youths will not receive cash for their projects as was the case in the past, but the money will only be released to suppliers of equipment and implements that the applicants require.
The tourism industry is a key building bloc towards Zimbabwe’s vision to become a middle-income economy by 2030, therefore increased youth participation and Government funding in the sector is critical.
Tourism and Hospitality Industry Minister Prisca Mupfumira said development of the nation will be achieved through allocating resources to youths with potential.
“This can only be true (development) if we empower our young men and women accordingly, across all sectors of the economy, including tourism,” said Minister Mupfumira.
“We need to nurture our youths to play a critical role in eradicating poverty and participate fully in the development of societies through different platforms. We should also look at the rural youth; there is more tourism out there. We must start at the grassroots by implementing eco-tourism.”