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Zim tourism loses US$700m to Covid-19 turmoil

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ZIMBABWE’S tourism sector could have lost nearly US$700 million in business due to Covid-19 restrictions aimed at slowing down the spread of the respiratory disease, the private sector arm of the World Bank has said.

BERNARD MPOFU

The country reported its first case of the coronavirus in March 2020, prompting the authorities to enforce several measures such as halting global travel which hit hard the tourism sector.

According a statement issued by the International Finance Corporation, a unit of the World Bank Group, following the launch of the country’s first national Tourism Satellite Account (TSA), the outbreak of the pandemic, which has claimed millions of lives across the globe, calls for new policy measures to help the industry recover.

The TSA shows the size and significance of the tourism sector for the Zimbabwean economy, based on the last available pre-Covid-19 data and on data gathered before the formal transition of national currency from the US dollar into the Zimbabwe dollar.

Official statistics show that tourism accounted for 4.25% of gross domestic product (GDP) with a value of US$1.03 billion in 2018. In 2019, the sector accounted for 6.3% of GDP with a value of US$1.23 billion. At the same time, the data also shows that tourism accounted for 1.56% of national employment levels in 2018, with around 100 000 jobs supported and created.

“Tourism in Zimbabwe has been significantly impacted by the pandemic, with the introduction of travel restrictions and lower demand from tourists leading to a massive fall in visitors. The loss to the national economy is estimated at US$690m, the IFC said in a statement.

According to IFC country manager Adamou Labara, “these empirical findings highlight the opportunity for policymakers in Zimbabwe to support recovery of the tourism sector through stimulating traveller demand, and responsibly reducing barriers to entry”.

The TSA was crafted as part of the Zimbabwe Destination Development Programme, a technical assistance program supported by IFC.

 As well as recording the number of tourists visiting the country, the initiative also provides monetary and non-monetary tourism data related to supply and demand and measures the value of expenditure on goods and services across all types of tourism as well as the value of tourism-sector industries producing goods and/or services. It will be used for quantifying tourism’s contribution to GDP and national employment rates.

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