HOTELS and lodges in the resort city of Victoria Falls are pinning hopes on the easing of lockdown restrictions and Easter holiday season, amid low tourist numbers in the first quarter of the year.
The lifting of inter-city travel restrictions on 1 March has revived the optimism of tourism operators.
Chairperson of the Matabeleland North chapter of the Hospitality Association of Zimbabwe (HAZ) Anald Musonza told The Newshawks that the announcement of the re-opening of companies, resumption of inter-city travel and extension of business hours could spur greater demand for the tourism industry products, including accommodation.
“The first quarter has been very low and hard, but we are hoping that with the lifting of the lockdown and Easter around the corner, we are going to see a number of bookings beginning to pick,” Musonza said without giving figures.
Musonza said the operators are also pinning hopes on the new vaccination rollout.
“Vaccines have started rolling out throughout the world so we hope that once everything has been sorted and clearer, we are going to start seeing our hotel and lodge occupancies grow bit by bit. But for now It’s been a situation where small bed-and-breakfast small lodges have been getting more clients (domestic) than the big operators because of their rentals and capacity so those ones have not been far better off than the hotels,” he said.
Victoria Falls, located in western Zimbabwe, is famous for the world’s largest waterfalls, where the mighty Zambezi River plunges into a narrow gorge more than 100 metres deep. The city is also a habitat for several unique species of plants and animals.
Before the lockdown which began in March last year, the city was among the fastest-growing tourist spots in Africa, earning a decent living for its business operators and residents.
For the tourists as far off from the US, UK, China, and from nearby South Africa, watching the sunset from the bridge opposite the falls was a favourite activity.
Some activities which include bunge jumping and zip line crossing along the bridge have not resumed since their closure early last year.
According to findings of a recent study by We Are Victoria Falls, a local hospitality industry initiative, the Covid-19 lockdown has affected 94% of the people employed in the sector.
It says 49% of workers in the tourism sector were forced to work reduced hours and to take pay cuts.
At least 18% of the workforce was on unpaid leave.
Despite the effects of the pandemic, Victoria Falls was last week named the second-best place to visit for holiday and leisure in the world by Geo Fernweh, a German travel magazine, bringing hope to the operators.
Musonza, however, made it clear that they will continue to ensure strict adherence to the World Health Organisation guidelines that involved maintaining social distance even during the Easter holiday peak.