ZIMBABWE’S tourism regulator has painted a bleak picture in the sector after projecting that top hotels in the country’s premier tourist destination, Victoria Falls, will record an average occupancy level of 42% during the festive season, a report has shown.
An outbreak of the Covid-19 pandemic restricted global travel as countries battled to contain the respiratory ailment that has claimed over a million lives worldwide.
A second wave of infections in Europe, Zimbabwe’s traditional source market, has resulted in a sharp decline in arrivals, experts say. As Zimbabwe swings into the festive season, the Zimbabwe Tourism Authority (ZTA) sees hotel occupancy for the top-end hotels in Victoria Falls dropping to 42% with locals accounting for the majority of the holidaymakers.
Statistics obtained from the ZTA show that occupancy levels at the five-star Victoria Falls Hotel, the Kingdom Hotel, Safari Lodge, Cresta Sprayview Hotel, Matetsi River Lodge and Stanley and Livingstone Hotel will be subdued this year.
The stats, which are based on existing bookings, revealed that from 20 December, the occupancy will begin at 17% and Christmas Day will have the highest occupancy at 81%.
The hotel occupancy will rise by 4% while 22 December will see the rate go up to 27%. According to the projection, the hotel occupancy rate will begin improving on 23 December at 47% occupancy to 78% on 24 December.
After Christmas Day, which is projected to record 81% occupancy, the Boxing Day rate will decline to 68% and subsequently to 41% thereafter.
From 28 December until 2 January, room bookings will decline and range between 20% and 40% and on New Year’s Day bookings will slightly rise to 47% before falling to 20% on 2 January.
Analysing the bookings, the chairperson of the Hotels Association of Zimbabwe chapter in Matabeleland North, Arnold Musonza, said the 42.6% room bookings were worrying.
“The ZTA updated statistics of our occupancies over the festive season are quite worrying right now,” Musonza noted.
“We can only for now hope that our numbers are going to improve as we approach the dates because the statistics were only done for top hotels in the resort town and it is not exactly where we would like to be.
“Most of our visitors, about 90% of them are domestic arrivals while the other 10% derives from regional and international markets.”
Musonza said for medium to small accommodation facilities, the association had not reconciled the figures but suspected the occupancies might be higher compared to the top hotels, considering their pricing models.
Almost all accommodation charges for the festive season have been lowered by almost 50% to attract visitors.
Victoria Falls occupancy around the festive season traditionally grows by more than 100% due to activities such as the annual Vic Falls Carnival which last year attracted close to 10 000 international and domestic tourists, and this year’s reversal of fortunes has been largely attributed to the Covid-19 pandemic travel restrictions.