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Zimbabwe pushes for UniVisa system

by Staff reporter
10 Jan 2024 at 05:35hrs | Views
ZIMBABWE is pushing for the revival of the UniVisa model with regional peers to enhance smooth passage of visitors at the country's ports of entry so that they can move around with just one visa in their passports.

Zimbabwe is one of the countries in Southern Africa that adopted and piloted the UniVisa concept although the initiative has not been fully implemented over the years.

Some countries have suspended the need for visas for visitors as a way of promoting tourism. The UniVisa initiative was supposed to be implemented at the Victoria Falls and Kazungula border posts, which are critical facilities as they are used by tourists, especially in the Kavango-Zambezi Trans-Frontier Conservation Area covering parts of Angola, Botswana, Namibia, Zambia and Zimbabwe.

Speaking to journalists in Victoria Falls recently, Tourism and Hospitality Industry Minister Barbara Rwodzi, said plans were underway to make sure that by the end of this year, the UniVisa will be in place. She said work was underway to concurrently work on the UniVisa and e-visa facilities.

This comes as the Department of Immigration is working flat out to upgrade ports of entry and introduce e-visa and e-gates facilities for smooth passage as the country drives towards total digitalization of Government services.

The tourism industry also targets a US$5 billion industry next year and digitalization is one of the catalysts that would enhance services.

Minister Rwodzi said delays in the implementation of the UniVisa facility were caused by several factors among them differences in immigration regulations of member states.

"The UniVisa is in place and Zimbabwe is a part of it in Southern Africa. Every country has its regulations and its own rules, so there is a process to that and some of the countries are delaying that process," she said.

"This UniVisa and e-visa are being tackled at the same time and I am optimistic that in the first quarter of the year, it should be in place but let's keep talking about it. As the tourism sector, we are on the case of immigration because the e-visa is lagging behind."

The e-visa system was put to test a few years ago.

Currently to apply for a visa one needs to produce a completed form, a non-refundable fee, and two passport-sized photos.

Travellers from Group C countries are expected to apply for visas at embassies. The e-visa system is expected to improve the country's fluidity and attract foreign direct investment as well as complement the "Zimbabwe is open for business" policy.

The Government is also restructuring tourism services and products to bring visitors a good experience and bring new products.

Minister Rwodzi said for tourism to meet its US$5 billion target, there is a need for all stakeholders including the media to work together and meet regularly.

The Zimbabwe Tourism Authority has the mandate to market tourism destinations and has strategies to synchronise activities, events, and diaries with its Zambian counterparts across the river to jointly market the destination Victoria Falls and bring more numbers.

The Government has also warned operators against starting new activities and products without following procedure, which includes seeking approval and registration for ZTA.

Minister Rwodzi said before the end of the year a system will be in place to address issues around operators that cut corners and ran unregistered activities.

She said the Government was also seized with the issue of overpricing of tourism products and activities and a system to regulate the sector over rates would soon be in place.

Over the years there have been concerns about Victoria Falls being an expensive destination compared to other destinations in the region.

Operators have defended the pricing model saying it is driven by costs of production with the costs of social amenities and import of other goods as the major driving forces.

Meanwhile, the Government plans to upgrade Kazungula and Victoria Falls border posts into modern state-of-the-art One Stop Border facilities.

Kazungula, on the border with Botswana, and Victoria Falls leading into Zambia, are two land borders linking the country's tourism capital to the region.

There is also the Pandamatenga border into Botswana and Victoria Falls International Airport whose refurbishment was completed in 2016 through funding from China Exim Bank.

Source - The Herald