The inaugural tourism debates programme has been launched at Lupane University and will see higher and tertiary institutions tussling it off on their knowledge of the tourism sector.

The programme has been described as an important component in the sustenance of the economy.

In her address during the launch at Lupane State University, the First Lady Amai Auxillia Mnangagwa who was represented by the Deputy Director Programmes in the Ministry of Higher and Tertiary Education, Science and Technology Development, Ms Maria Angela Adriano, reiterated that the time to put tourism at its right pedestal had come as opposed to seeing it as just a pass time.

While describing it as having a fiercely competitive market, requiring skills, talent and enterprise, Amai Mnangagwa said tourism has the ability of aiding to the success of the economy.

“Economic transformation is something that has long been assumed and even taken for granted when people talk about tourism products, positioning people and partnerships. For many years we have been the envy of the world travellers and we need to develop a high quality, targeted, unique authentically, eminently sustainable tourism product. A tourism product that complements mining and agriculture in transforming our economy through creating more jobs, exports and development of the country’s infrastructure. The tourism debates I hope are going to open your minds on the vast opportunities that you can seize for the transformation of our economy,” she said.

Amai Mnangagwa, however, acknowledged the serious challenges bedeviling the sector most notably the lack of direct flights as guests try to get to Zimbabwe.

Speaking at the same event, Minister of State for Matabeleland North Province, Honourable Richard Moyo who was represented by the Director in his office, Mr Tapera Mugoriya, described the tourism sector as critical in the national development agenda.

“Allow me to highlight your Excellency that tourism is recognised as a critical sector globally contributing significantly to the GDP and job creation. The beauty of the tourism sector is that it cuts across all sectors and is the fastest growing sector contributing to job creation,” he said.

Zimbabwe Youth in Tourism Director General, Mr Stewart Mutizo said his organisation came up with the debates programme as a way of promoting youths to be effective in tourism.

Participants are drawn from universities, polytechnic college and teachers’ colleges.

The debates that will be held in all the country’s provinces, culminating in the grand finale during the Zimbabwe Youth in Tourism Conference set for September are running under the theme: “Towards Economic Transformation – Product, Positioning, People and Partnerships Making Vision 2030 a Reality”.