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Non-compliant tourism players put on notice – The Herald

Leonard Ncube

Victoria Falls Reporter

TOURISM industry players have up to October 31 to regularise their operations in terms of foreign agreements and offshore foreign accounts or face penalties by the Reserve Bank of Zimbabwe (RBZ), as nearly half of the operators are said to be flouting the law.

The deadline is an extension from the initial August 31, which was issued through the Monetary Policy Statement where the RBZ directed that tourism operators regularise their foreign agreements and offshore accounts.

Many players in the sector operate offshore accounts in different countries and are legally expected to declare those funds within 90 days of business after which the funds are classified as externalised funds.

The players also enter into tourism agreements with international partners such as travel agents and these agreements should be lodged with the RBZ for monitoring of business and flow of funds.

It has, however, emerged that most tourism players are not doing that hence the RBZ has made the directive, which has been extended to October 31, after it emerged through engagements with the Tourism Business Council of Zimbabwe (TBCZ) that many of the tourism players were not aware of the requirements.

Tourism is one of the major foreign currency earners in the country contributing immensely to the national Gross Domestic Product but there are fears that the sector could be under remitting because of lack of updated statistics on the Central Bank end as a result of lack of compliance.

RBZ and TBCZ are conducting workshops to train tourism operators on exchange control policies and administration of offshore accounts and tourism agreements.

The sessions have been held in Harare and Bulawayo and yesterday it was Victoria Falls’ turn. There are about 1 726 registered tourism facilities in the country and that includes restaurants, guest houses, travel agents, hotels, tour operators and hunting operations.

Of these, those registered for TRAS1, a form used by RBZ to monitor operations and for

submission in the non-consumptive sector are only 828, making 52 percent of the total.

This means that 48 percent of tourism operators are not registered with the RBZ and, therefore, not compliant. The reason for non-compliance, according to RBZ principal analyst Mr Godfrey Chokwa, is that some are not aware, some are new and others do not want to comply.

Hence the RBZ has set up a tourism desk to monitor compliance and gather statistics, which is crucial in policy formulation and calculation of Gross Domestic Product.

“As the RBZ our role is to fully account for the revenue that is generated from the tourism sector. So, in this regard, as a bank we have come up with instruments that we use to collect statistics and we have what we call a Form TRAS1 introduced to account for earnings in the tourism sector but as a bank we are really worried in terms of the statistics that we are getting from the tourism sector, which currently stands below 50 percent,” said Mr Chokwa.

“This results in underreporting of figures that we have as a country in terms of contribution to the tourism sector. So, this engagement is to ensure

that we bring everyone on board in terms of the requirements and expectations of the bank in terms of submitting statistics. Without statistics we will not be able to come up with effective policy formulation.”

Mr Chokwa said their thrust was to bring on board all players to register for submission of reports and compliance with set requirements.

He said it is a requirement in terms of regulations that all designated tourism facilities submit information regarding their earnings from both foreign and domestic tourism as well as employment statistics.

They are supposed to do that on a monthly basis before the 15th.

“They submit to the Reserve Bank their domestic and foreign earnings for statistical purposes, compilation of GDP, balance of payments and also for effective policy formulation,” said Mr Chokwa.

“We have been engaging tourism operators and we started in Harare, Bulawayo and now Victoria Falls as the Exchange Control is calling upon operators to self-regulate, do the needful and submit returns.

“This is not a witch-hunt and we are saying those that have been operating should come and regularise and going forward we would have to register as and when we consummate them.”

He said tourism operators, because of the nature of their business, have offshore foreign currency accounts that they open outside the country.

“They also have tourism agreements. So, the issue is that they are supposed to register all their agreements and offshore accounts so that we are aware of the business that they are doing,” said Mr Chokwa.

“The Monetary Policy Statement had given them up to August 31 to regularise their operations, which has been extended to October 31. After October 31 the bank will sit down with all tourism stakeholders and for those not fully compliant the bank will take measures.”

Meanwhile, the operators have pledged to regularise as they also raised concerns about some policy gaps. TBCZ president Mr Wengayi Nhau said between now and October 31, consultations will continue while operators regularise for the industry to be fully compliant.

“We are following up on the latest monetary policy review where tourism operators were called upon by RBA to regularise their contractual agreements with different suppliers outside Zimbabwe, as well as issue of operation of offshore accounts that may exist in some of the operations,” he said.

“RBZ expected us to regularise by August 31 and then as a big industry spread across the country we reached out and agreed that maybe before we expect everyone to comply, we first interrogate why operators are not compliant and found that some are not aware of the requirements hence this exercise where the RBZ is going around the country to the major tourism destinations by province.

“The major issue is to do with statistics, we want tourism to claim its rightful position in terms of contribution to the national economy.”

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New insights into the atmosphere and star of an exoplanet – Science Daily

Astronomers led by a team at Université de Montréal has made important progress in understanding the intriguing TRAPPIST-1 exoplanetary system, which was first discovered in 2016 amid speculation it could someday provide a place for humans to live.

Not only does the new research shed light on the nature of TRAPPIST-1 b, the exoplanet orbiting closest to the system’s star, it has also shown the importance of parent stars when studying exoplanets.

Published in Astrophysical Journal Letters, the findings by astronomers at UdeM’s Trottier Institute for Research on Exoplanets (iREx) and colleagues in Canada, the U.K. and U.S. shed light on the complex interplay between stellar activity and exoplanet characteristics.

Captured the attention

TRAPPIST-1, a star much smaller and cooler than our sun located approximately 40 light-years away from Earth, has captured the attention of scientists and space enthusiasts alike since the discovery of its seven Earth-sized exoplanets seven years ago. These worlds, tightly packed around their star with three of them within its habitable zone, have fueled hopes of finding potentially habitable environments beyond our solar system.

Led by iREx doctoral student Olivia Lim, the researchers employed the powerful James Webb Space Telescope (JWST) to observe TRAPPIST-1 b. Their observations were collected as part of the largest Canadian-led General Observers (GO) program during the JWST’s first year of operations. (This program also included observations of three other planets in the system, TRAPPIST-1 c, g and h.) TRAPPIST-1 b was observed during two transits — the moment when the planet passes in front of its star — using the Canadian-made NIRISS instrument aboard the JWST.

“These are the very first spectroscopic observations of any TRAPPIST-1 planet obtained by the JWST, and we’ve been waiting for them for years” said Lim, the GO program’s principal Investigator.


She and her colleagues used the technique of transmission spectroscopy to peer deeper into the distant world. By analysing the central star’s light after it has passed through the exoplanet’s atmosphere during a transit, astronomers can see the unique fingerprint left behind by the molecules and atoms found within that atmosphere.

‘Just a small subset’

“This is just a small subset of many more observations of this unique planetary system yet to come and to be analysed,” adds René Doyon, Principal Investigator of the NIRISS instrument and co-author on the study. “These first observations highlight the power of NIRISS and the JWST in general to probe the thin atmospheres around rocky planets.”

The astronomers’ key finding was just how significant stellar activity and contamination are when trying to determine the nature of an exoplanet. Stellar contamination refers to the influence of the star’s own features, such as dark spots and bright faculae, on the measurements of the exoplanet’s atmosphere.

The team found compelling evidence that stellar contamination plays a crucial role in shaping the transmission spectra of TRAPPIST-1 b and, likely, the other planets in the system. The central star’s activity can create “ghost signals” that may fool the observer into thinking they have detected a particular molecule in the exoplanet’s atmosphere.

This result underscores the importance of considering stellar contamination when planning future observations of all exoplanetary systems, the sceintists say. This is especially true for systems like TRAPPIST-1, since the system is centred around a red dwarf star which can be particularly active with starspots and frequent flare events.


“In addition to the contamination from stellar spots and faculae, we saw a stellar flare, an unpredictable event during which the star looks brighter for several minutes or hours,” said Lim. “This flare affected our measurement of the amount of light blocked by the planet. Such signatures of stellar activity are difficult to model but we need to account for them to ensure that we interpret the data correctly.”

A range of models explored

Based on their collected JWST observations, Lim and her team explored a range of atmospheric models for TRAPPIST-1 b, examining various possible compositions and scenarios.

They found they could confidently rule out the existence of cloud-free, hydrogen-rich atmospheres — in other words, there appears to be no clear, extended atmosphere around TRAPPIST-1 b. However, the data could not confidently exclude thinner atmospheres, such as those composed of pure water, carbon dioxide, or methane, nor an atmosphere similar to that of Titan, a moon of Saturn and the only moon in the Solar System with its own atmosphere.

These results are generally consistent with previous (photometric, and not spectroscopic) JWST observations of TRAPPIST-1 b with the MIRI instrument. The new study also proves that Canada’s NIRISS instrument is a highly performing, sensitive tool able to probe for atmospheres on Earth-sized exoplanets at impressive levels.

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