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Henry Makova

Interview By Freeman Makopa


Rwanda and Zimbabwe recently signed a memorandum of understanding (MoU) to co-operate in the development of the two countries’ tourism industries. It was the second such major development since Rwanda took interest in Zimbabwe’s tourism industry, introducing RwandAir flights into the southern African country in April 2016.

But in the aftermath of the MoU, Kigali invited Harare two weeks ago to participate in the Rwanda Travel Week and Africa Tourism Leadership Forum, which was held from November 24-26. The Zimbabwean delegation was led by Henry Makova (HM), the senior tourism officer in the Ministry of Environment, Climate, Tourism and Hospitality Industry. To understand how Zimbabwe would benefit from the conference, our business reporter, Freeman Makopa (FM), this week caught up with Makova for a discussion about this and other tourism-related issues. Below are excerpts from their discussion:
FM: You recently led a tourism delegation to Rwanda. Tell us about this tour?
HM: Thank you for awarding us the opportunity to explain our tour to your diverse domestic and international readership. As you are aware, the government is building its politico-economic success on the consolidation, configuration and reconfiguration of international relations with sister nations regionally and internationally. This has seen the central government leading a massive global campaign to attract domestic and foreign investment into the country through a well calculated policy of re-engagement with the community of nations.
Remember as a nation, we are rebuilding our esteem and economy, which has been mutilated by a global embargo that was imposed following the land reform programme that saw the majority black population accessing land that was in the hands of around 4 000 white farmers. This embargo affected all sectors of our economy, including tourism, mining, manufacturing and agriculture.
Tourism is image related. So, it suffered gruesomely through these sanctions on the republic. The recent tour by the Ministry of Environment, Climate, Tourism and Hospitality Industry, was strategically and tacitly part of the re-engagement process by the republic, which is being led by the presidency in touching base with other sister nations.
FM: How many countries were involved and why did Zimbabwe decide to take part?
HM: On September 28 this year, the governments of Zimbabwe and Rwanda signed a Memorandum of Understanding on cooperation in the fields of tourism and business events. To solidify this friendship, Rwanda through the Rwanda Development Board, invited the government of Zimbabwe to attend the Rwanda Travel Week and Africa Tourism Leadership Forum held from November 24-26 this year.
The ministry accepted the invitation, which gave the government an opportunity to exhibit to a diverse tourism and business market in Rwanda. We won the award for being the Best Southern African Development Community Exhibitor.
As a government, we were able to participate in technocratic and public policy forums on the national and global development of tourism amid the scourge of Covid-19, which has economically affected local and international tourism. So the attendance was fundamentally informed, first, by political intuition to honour a happy gesture from a sister African state, and secondly, by commercial intuition to market the tourism products and economy of Zimbabwe to the rest of the world. As you know we are open for business. I cannot state the exact number of countries that were participating, but I can tell you it was well subscribed by nations of the world.
FM: Tell us about tourism in Rwanda. What did the Zimbabwe delegation learn from Kigali?
HM: Rwanda is an indefatigable regional giant in economic and political affairs. They have constructed a strong tourism identity that is built on its history and magnificent culture of rural and urban orderliness and a happy people. Its tourism, if not magical, is definitely sacrosanct by definition. This is one nation that does not shy away from its history.
As Zimbabwe, we share the same resilience. We need to entrench more of our liberation history in our tourism scholarship and promotional packages. The liberation narrative of Zimbabwe is by definition a tourism product that needs to be exploited. The two nations functionally can learn from each other from a nationalist tourism perspective.
FM: Zimbabwe, before Covid-19 disruptions, received about 2,5 million tourists a year. What must be done to improve this?
HM: Well, any real improvement for the betterment of our tourism and broader economy can only be achieved if the question of global sanctions on the nation is settled.
Sanctions remain the only outstanding political and economic issue in our domestic and international affairs. You cannot compete globally when globally you are being racially targeted through a criminal embargo that does not pass any legal or moral test under any jurisdiction that has honour for justice and law. It’s like removing all teeth from a person and still expect them to easily munch on a good sausage.
The economic vision of the presidency and the republic is constantly being sabotaged by this crude political animal that now needs to be tamed and exorcised for good.
As a republic, we are thankful to the nations that have stood by us in our fight to end this ungodly attack on our state and citizenry.
FM: Assuming Covid-19 comes under control, what are your projections in terms of arrivals from 2022 onwards?
HM: I am confident the arrivals will increase in 2022. Thanks to the public policy blueprints pronounced by the government such as the Tourism Recovery and Growth Strategy, developed to respond to the Covid-19 crisis that has hit global tourism.
This policy framework implemented alongside the broader national macroeconomic and political realignments and policies being championed by the presidency and government to better civilian lives will see the unlocking of tourism arrivals into Zimbabwe.
Zimbabwe is an attractive destination. A lot of work is being done by the government to develop domestic tourism and some of it is being implemented with technical assistance from key institutions such as the Japan International Cooperation Agency.
FM: The pandemic has returned. I mean that the region is potentially facing a fourth wave. What do you see? Will Zimbabwe’s tourism industry stand the heat?
HM: We will stand the heat; in fact what this government has strategically done is to push for the creation of new businesses in the economy led by youth and women. Tourism from a public policy perspective is encouraging the opening of new markets and development of new products that will complement existing attractions in our rich Savannah.
Government has statutory instruments that allow anyone in the tourism sector to import capital goods duty free. This is calculated to bring in more investment into the sector. I encourage all aspiring Zimbabweans who have a desire to start any tourism facility of their choice to embrace the government’s investment initiatives and visit any Ministry of Tourism or Zimbabwe Tourism Authority office nationally and see how they can import their capital goods duty free. So, in essence we will beat any current or upcoming wave because of our solid policies.
FM: In your opinion, does the  deployment of tourism attachés work? What is the logic behind opening tourism offices abroad?
HM: Well, the logic of having or deploying tourism attachés to other countries is part of a government strategy to help canvas and attract new and existing tourism markets for the country. We are opening offices in many countries to help magnify and promote our tourism resources and attract international tourists.
Domestically, we have recently opened provincial offices in all the 10 provinces of the country to ensure we not only recognise the importance of devolved public administration that the country is implementing but to ensure community development reaches all the corners of our country. So, in essence tourism attachés and domestic provincial deployments are a twin strategy serving one purpose; to open up new tourism markets for our country.
FM: What is your advice to tourism firms and the government?
HM: My advice to tourism firms is simple; take firm control of our tourism resources and accrue as much revenue for yourselves and our government. Be innovative, and embrace digital communications in marketing your enterprises. Most importantly, price yourselves in a way that does not exclude local citizens from accessing tourism resources and in a manner that promotes, not stifles, domestic tourism.
To the government, keep up the good work particularly of entrenching an entrepreneurial spirit amongst youth and women in the country.
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