The tourism sector is paying a huge price due to global and national travel restrictions meant to curb the spread of Covid-19 with recovery for sector that has suffered 25 percent hotel occupancy decline expected in 2022.
The statistics were availed by the Hospitality Association of Zimbabwe (HAZ), which also called on Government to consider a raft of measures to keep the foreign currency spinning sector afloat.
Tourism is one of the key pillars with which Government seeks accelerated economic growth towards upper middle income economy by 2030 as espoused by President Mnangagwa.
Under the National Tourism Recovery and Growth Strategy – the blueprint with which Government expects to drive tourism sector growth, Government is targeting sector growth to attain US$5 billion by 2025.
To achieve this, Government envisages a jump in tourist arrivals and receipts buoyed by the international goodwill Zimbabwe is enjoying since the advent of the New Dispensation.
Plans have, however, been pegged back by the effects of Covid-19 with the Word Tourism Organisation (WTO) estimating that global tourist arrivals plummeted by 74 percent in 2020 when compared to 2019.
In an interview, HAZ president Clive Chinwada said the situation was bad locally.
“. . . the local industry was not spared from these difficulties with hotels realising a significant decline in occupancies,” said Mr Chinwada.
“Harare for example had a recorded average occupancy of around 23 percent down from 48 percent in the prior year (2019).
“Victoria Falls suffered the most, recording by and large single digit occupancies from March to November, only slightly recovering during the festive season,” he said.
The situation has not abated in the new year due to the second wave, which has been largely credited to people lowering their guard in the festive season.
It is against this background that, Mr Chinwada said HAZ is only expecting green shoots of recovery from 2022.
“The situation is quite bad and will likely be so for quite some time as recovery is now likely to only start in 2022 for international travel.
“You will appreciate that the year began with a surge in Covid-19 cases as well as a rise in recorded fatalities from the pandemic. (As a result) Resorts across the country are recording negligible figures mostly single digit from Vic Falls to Kariba, to the Eastern Highlands.
“In the cities, the banning of public gatherings has meant that all Meetings Incentives Conferences and Events (MICE) activity is suspended,” he said.
With several countries, particularly in the hard hit first world, having started vaccination programmes, the HAZ supremo said Zimbabwe has to take a leadership role in its mitigatory strategies so that it is immediately viewed as a safe destination at the resumption of international visits.
He also called on Government to forge ahead with private sector friendly strategies to help them in keeping afloat.
“Government should continue to work on measures to manage the Covid-19 pandemic and ensure that when global travel returns, Zimbabwe will be regarded as a safe destination.
“RBZ (Reserve Bank of Zimbabwe) recently revised the threshold for forex retention. . . these new monetary measures are going to add pain to an already decimated sector,”