VICTORIA FALLS, October 28 (The Source) – THE Victoria Falls Municipality has offered 20 percent discount on service rates to the hospitality industry in its proposed 2016 budget, after a steep increase this year drew widespread criticism.
The proposal was announced by town treasurer Thembinkosi Khumalo at a stakeholders meeting this week, but immediately attracted criticism from residents and other businesses who complained about the preferential treatment of the hospitality sector industry, the tourism town’s anchor industry.
In May the council and business, dominated by tour operators and hotels, sparred over a 600 percent rate increase in the municipality’s $21 million 2015 budget.
The fallout resulted in the Zimbabwe Tourism Authority (ZTA) intervening on behalf of the hospitality industry to reverse rates that tourism operators in the town said were too high and would drive away tourists.
This week, the council said the 20 percent discount is an extension of relief to the hospitality industry so they remain afloat and within the resort town.
“The council has offered a 20 percent discount to hotels and lodges. The reduction is only on rates and not other charges. The council had increased rates and now we are reducing those rates by 20 percent.
This means that those who were paying $9, 000 per month would now pay roughly $7, 000,” said the town treasurer.
A businessman attending the meeting quickly shot back: “Last year our bills suddenly shot up by 600 percent and now you are only reducing rates for hotels and lodges, what are you saying about other businesses, because we are equally important?”
Residents and other businesses have questioned why the discount was not given across the board.
Ward 2 Councillor Ephias Mambume explained: “It’s not through bias that hotels and lodges are given discount. They reported to the Ministry and the treasurer was summoned because the country expects a boom in tourism and that would translate to development of other sectors. This is payback to the hospitality industry.”
Hotels and lodges in the town have welcomed the development, but said the council could have done a lot morer as the town was expensive for business.
The council’s proposed budget for 2016 is also $21 million.