TOURISM and hospitality players say hotels countrywide are generally fully booked for the Christmas and New Year holidays, with a notable increase in tourist arrivals in cities and resort areas.
Zimbabwe’s tourism industry is still on a rebound after being severely battered by the Covid-19 pandemic, that saw many countries effecting travel restrictions to contain the spread of the virus, which claimed many lives globally.
The Hospitality Association of Zimbabwe (HAZ), which represents the interests of owners and operators of hotels, restaurants, clubs and related establishments throughout the country, said there has been an increase in the number of tourist arrivals.
“Yes, we have seen an increase. We are seeing increases in the number of arrivals and occupancy rates. There has been an increase, both in the city areas and in the resort towns. Looking at Christmas, some of the places are already booked, especially in the Victoria Falls, and the other resort areas as well,” said Emmah Kativhu, HAZ vice-president.
“The city centres, not so much, but because we had some sport tourism and the recently-held ICASA, there was really a jump in the occupancy rate, in the city and the surrounding areas. So, in a nutshell, there has been a significant increase.” While there has been a slight increase, the president of the Employers’ Association for Tours and Safari Operators, Clement Mukwasi, said there has been a big jump since 2019.
“The year 2023 has been a pretty tough year, in that this is the year where we are starting to recover from Covid-19. We however travelled quite a sizeable number of people. Our comparison with the previous year is that we are actually about 85% compared to 2019 in various sectors,” Mukwasi said.
“We think that if the trends continue, our road to recovery will be shorter than we have imagined it to be. But coming specifically to the festive season, we have seen a blend of international tourists and domestic tourists coming through to destination Victoria Falls. At the moment, hotels and lodges and hotels are full, and there is merrymaking. People are happy with their families and are travelling to watch flora and fauna.
“The main activities that are mainly focused on by various tourists include helicopter flights, bunji and the sunset cruise, which is a signature activity of the destination. Almost everybody who comes through wants to do the sunset cruise, and it has become a very popular activity. But we have one concern as tour operators.”
Mukwasi told The NewsHawks that the while there has been an increase, the tourism sector has been hit by several concerns, with players facing challenges in renewing licences for crucial and popular activities.
“We have spent money and time in international conferences marketing destination Victoria Falls as a destination, but as we are trying to renew certain licences, specifically, that of night game drives, we are actually hitting a snag as indications are that Parks [and Wildlife Management Authority] are unwilling to renew. We are understanding why they are taking such a position,” Mukwasi said.
“It is a popular activity with tourists, it is an activity that we have already marketed and we have invested in capital to enable us to do those activities, but we find ourselves in a difficult situation. It is an activity that is even popular in our competing destinations such as Zambia and Chobe in Botswana. So, we think that we need National Parks to facilitate the doing of that type of activity.
“We want it, the tourists want it, and it is a popular activity that adds value to our destinations. It has to happen in 2024. We are hopeful that Parks will licence operators to do the night game drives and also to do dinner boat cruises on the mighty Zambezi.”