Givemore Chidzidzi Correspondent
Tourism is one of the world’s largest and fastest growing industries. It is an engine for development, contributing to economic growth, poverty reduction and community development.
In Zimbabwe tourism is one of the key economic drivers contributing 7,2 percent to Gross Domestic Product (GDP).
The sector is expected to contribute 15 percent to GDP and generate close to $2,5 billion in foreign currency receipts by 2025.
Tourism is no doubt one of the pillars of the national economy that should pay a leading role in the processes leading to the attainment of Vision 2030.
Again, like any other sector of the economy, tourism is in the basket of the current Transitional Stabilisation Programme (TSP), because it cannot be left out.
This, therefore, makes tourism a very important and all inclusive, sector in the matrix of the country’s economy rebuilding.
The 2013 National Tourism Policy reinforces tourism as an important pillar for sustainable human development including poverty alleviation, employment generation, environment regeneration and advancement of women and other disadvantaged groups in Zimbabwe.
As such, Government is paying more attention to the ways in which the benefits of tourism are distributed between men and women.
The tourism sector definitely provides various entry points for women’s employment and opportunities for creating self-employment in small- and medium-sized income-generating activities, thus creating paths towards the elimination of poverty in women and local communities.
It is pleasing to note that generally, the contribution of women in the business world has increased in recent years, although women are under-represented in management and leadership positions. In Zimbabwe’s tourism sector, the percentage of women who work in the industry is high, but their function is dominated by unskilled, low-paid jobs.
Government’s thrust is now to help build the capacity of women so that their emancipation into such higher ranks is actualised at a faster pace.
Efforts are also underway to ensure that women participation in tourism income-generating activities increases across the board from community projects to large enterprises. To this end, women are being made aware of various income-generating projects associated with tourism development.
Ultimately actualisation of these projects will lead to the development of great women entrepreneurs and economically empowered families.
We are aware that women’s access to capital has been a major challenge towards women empowerment and participation in economic activities across all sectors, tourism included.
This has been coupled by women’s limited or no access to collateral. We have created a platform for the women entrepreneurs in tourism to get vast knowledge on how they can access funding for their various projects and the requirements thereof. It will also provide a platform to share lessons learnt from different experiences and promote good practices.
To strengthen this, we have among us women who have walked the road and are willing to share their experiences with others that “Yes it is possible, yes it can be done!”
Indeed, the need for women to network, exchange ideas and provide each other with mutual support and strategies as they try to meet challenges associated with altering traditional roles in their communities to becoming leaders or businesswomen cannot be overemphasised.
It is my sincere hope that at the end every woman in tourism must be knowledgeable and equipped to take a bold step in starting or growing their tourism business.
The ZTA on its part is prepared to do everything in its powers to ensure that women get their fair share in the tourism.
This is the reason why we have made it a policy to have a Women in Tourism Conference, at the Sanganai/Hlanganani Travel and Tourism Expo.
We take women participation in tourism industry seriously and in line with Government policy, our doors will be open to any ideas that will make more women benefit and not only benefit but benefit accordingly.
It is fact not fiction that women in tourism, if given the chance to do what they know most, will participate fully in the processes leading to the successful attainment of the Vision 2030.
At ZTA we believe that women have a critical role to play in the whole development and improvement of the tourism and hospitality industry.
There are many women that have been in the tourism trenches for long and have done us proud, winning accolades among their male counterparts and in many instances beating their male counterparts to the game.
But, in the final analysis, we will be happy to see more and more women participate and get their actual share and spoils of the industry.
Givemore Chidzidzi is the Acting Chief Executive of the Zimbabwe Tourism Authority.