In a pivotal address at the Workshop for Tourism Incentives held at the Mulungushi International Conference Center on August 31, 2023, the Permanent Secretary of the Ministry of Tourism, underscored the Ministry’s commitment to reshaping the tourism industry’s landscape through a significant regulatory overhaul. The changes come in the form of the removal of retention fees and the introduction of new incentives, aiming to foster a more inclusive, dynamic, and sustainable tourism environment.
In his opening remarks, the Permanent Secretary extended a warm welcome to all industry stakeholders gathered for this vital meeting. He highlighted the recent regulatory changes, which include the abolition of tourism retention fees through Statutory Instrument (SI) No. 23 of 2023, the Tourism and Hospitality (Accommodation Establishments Standards) (Amendment) Regulation 2023, and Statutory Instrument (SI) No. 24 of 2023, the Tourism and Hospitality (Licensing) Amendment) Regulation 2023.
The decision to remove these fees, which have long been seen as a source of revenue, was motivated by concerns regarding their impact on the accessibility and sustainability of the sector. Acknowledging tourism’s significance as a key economic driver, generating income, creating jobs, and promoting cultural exchange, the Permanent Secretary emphasized the need to carefully consider how fees can affect the industry’s growth and the experience of both tourists and businesses.
The removal of retention fees is aimed at creating a more conducive business environment for a wider range of businesses, particularly small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs). This initiative aligns with the government’s commitment to facilitating business growth. Additionally, the introduction of the government service bus is expected to simplify the licensing process, reducing both the cost and time associated with obtaining licenses.
The move to eliminate retention fees is expected to strengthen small and local businesses within the tourism sector by relieving them of financial burdens. With more resources at their disposal, these businesses can focus on improving services, infrastructure, and overall tourism experiences. This positive feedback loop is expected to result in higher tourist satisfaction, repeat visits, and positive word-of-mouth recommendations.
The Ministry’s objective in removing retention fees is to shift the industry’s focus from quantity to quality. They aim to prioritize businesses that uphold ethical standards, respect local environments and cultures, and contribute positively to community well-being. It is important to note that the removal of licenses does not signify a lack of regulation but rather a transition toward more rigorous and purposeful screening of businesses. Stricter criteria for obtaining operational approval will ensure that only entities committed to sustainable and responsible tourism practices flourish.
The Permanent Secretary also highlighted the significance of tourism incentives introduced by the government in 2022 to mitigate the impact of COVID-19 on the sector. These incentives are designed to stimulate various aspects of the industry, promote economic development, enhance visitor experiences, and encourage sustainable practices. However, it should be noted that these incentives are only applicable to fully compliant institutions.
In conclusion, the removal of tourism retention fees signifies a strategic shift towards a more accessible, sustainable, and mutually beneficial tourism industry. It emphasizes the long-term benefits for both the economy and local communities, beyond immediate financial gains. The Ministry calls upon all stakeholders to embrace these changes and work together to create a tourism sector that is not only economically prosperous but also socially responsible.
The Ministry of Tourism remains hopeful that these reforms will contribute to a vibrant and thriving tourism industry that benefits the economy, the environment, and local communities alike.