Zimbabwe’s tourism sector is suffering serious haemorrhage and the latest removal of the country from the United Kingdom red-list of travellers, came after damage had already been inflicted as thousands of tourists cancelled bookings in compliance with directives from their governments.
The Southern African nation, along with other regional countries, were two weeks ago slapped with travel restrictions following the outbreak of the omicron Covid-19 variant.
Tourism Business Council of Zimbabwe president, Wengayi Nhau, said the sector was in a worse off situation than before because of the latest measures put in place to contain the spread of the pandemic.
He implored the Government to consider exempting the tourism industry from some of the Covid-19 related restrictions.
“It’s our view going forward that the tourism industry should be given the same exemption as other sectors so that we can at least operate. As we speak today, we have received a lot of cancellations in the hotel bookings,” he said.
“Since beginning of the first lockdown, the Government gave exemption to the other sectors and it is our view that tourism is equally of importance particularly when we speak of issues to do with earning of foreign currency.”
Mr Nhau said some flights have also cancelled schedules into Zimbabwe. Tourism is one of the major foreign currency earners in the country contributing about 10 percent of forex receipts revenue. The other key sectors are agriculture, mining and manufacturing.
He said the Government should consider self-quarantine for arrivals, especially considering that the average length of stay by visitors is two to three days in Victoria Falls and one day in other destinations.
“It’s up to us to make sure that we put necessary interventions to make sure airlines operations are guaranteed by having a clear policy that accommodates both their interest and the State of Zimbabwe in terms of Covid-19 prevention measures,” he said.
“We have worked very hard as an industry and stakeholders to attract and persuade airlines to come and operate in Zimbabwe and this SI 267 has impacted on the industry.
“We have written to the Government through our parent ministry and we got a response that currently they are not in a position to consider our submission, and we are still engaging and remain optimistic that one day our voice will be taken into consideration,” added Mr Nhau.
He said given that a majority of people coming into Zimbabwe were fully vaccinated, it should be easy to ensure management of traffic in terms of the pandemic.
Mr Nhau added that this year’s festive season would have been better by way of Zimbabweans based in the diaspora coming back home, but said many will not be coming because of the mandatory quarantine.
“Usually, diasporans give a boost to domestic travel when they come for the Christmas holidays and travel to resort areas with their families,” he said.
“Because of Covid-19 lockdowns, the tourism industry this year effectively operated for less than seven months.”
Hospitality Association of Zimbabwe (HAZ) president, Farai Chimba, said domestic travel could increase if there is no ban on inter-city travel.
“Most people were waiting to see if there would be an intercity travel ban.
“We expect the domestic market to be strong during the festive holidays,” Mr Nhau said.-Sundaymail