After Sparing GoldMafia Looters, RBZ Goes After Tourism Businesses
19 September 2023
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RBZ Extends Deadline for Tourism Operators to Regularize Foreign Agreements and Offshore Accounts**

In a significant development, the Reserve Bank of Zimbabwe (RBZ) has extended the deadline for tourism industry players to regularize their foreign agreements and offshore accounts. This decision comes in response to concerns that nearly half of the operators in the tourism sector are not in compliance with these regulations.

Initially, the RBZ had set a deadline of August 31 for tourism operators to ensure compliance with the rules regarding foreign agreements and offshore accounts. However, the central bank has now extended this deadline to October 31, giving operators additional time to meet the requirements.

Many tourism businesses in Zimbabwe operate offshore accounts in different countries, which are legally expected to be declared within 90 days of conducting business. Failure to do so results in these funds being classified as externalized funds.

Additionally, tourism operators often enter into agreements with international partners, such as travel agents, and these agreements should be lodged with the RBZ for monitoring purposes.

The decision to extend the deadline came after engagements with the Tourism Business Council of Zimbabwe (TBCZ) revealed that many tourism players were not aware of these requirements.

Tourism is a vital sector for Zimbabwe’s economy, contributing significantly to the national Gross Domestic Product (GDP). However, there are concerns that the sector may not be contributing its full potential due to a lack of updated statistics on the central bank’s end, stemming from non-compliance.

To address this issue, RBZ and TBCZ have been conducting workshops to train tourism operators on exchange control policies and the administration of offshore accounts and tourism agreements. These sessions have been held in major cities like Harare, Bulawayo, and Victoria Falls.

As of now, there are approximately 1,726 registered tourism facilities in the country, including restaurants, guest houses, travel agents, hotels, tour operators, and hunting operations. Shockingly, only 828 of these facilities, making up 52 percent, are registered for TRAS1, the form used by RBZ to monitor operations and submissions in the non-consumptive sector. This indicates that 48 percent of tourism operators are not registered with the RBZ and are not in compliance.

Mr. Godfrey Chokwa, an RBZ principal analyst, stated that the reasons for non-compliance vary, with some operators being unaware of the requirements, some being new to the industry, and others simply choosing not to comply.

The RBZ has established a tourism desk to monitor compliance and gather crucial statistics, which are essential for policy formulation and GDP calculations. It is mandatory for designated tourism facilities to submit information regarding their earnings from both foreign and domestic tourism, as well as employment statistics, on a monthly basis before the 15th of each month.

Failure to comply with these regulations by the extended deadline of October 31 may result in measures being taken by the RBZ. However, the central bank emphasizes that this initiative is not meant to be punitive but rather aims to bring all tourism operators on board and ensure compliance with the set requirements.

Tourism operators have pledged to regularize their operations, and consultations will continue between now and the extended deadline to address any policy gaps and facilitate compliance within the industry.

The RBZ’s move reflects its commitment to ensuring transparency and accountability within the tourism sector, which plays a crucial role in Zimbabwe’s economy.- state media