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Zim tourism sector desperate for normalcy



RECOVERY of the country’s tourism sector will be a long and arduous journey as the unrelenting effects of the Covid-19 pandemic on travel will only weather off around 2023, an expert says.

After losing US$1 billion in potential revenue last year, coupled with a significant drop in arrivals, the tourism industry will continue suffering the effects of the global pandemic in 2021.

Hospitality Association of Zimbabwe (HAZ) president Clive Chinwada said while the industry would require an in-depth study to ascertain the losses likely to be incurred this year, business would continue on a downward spiral.

He said the discovery of other potentially dangerous Covid-19 variants in countries like South Africa would make resurgence more difficult for the tourism industry, which feeds on confidence.

Tourism is one of the worst-affected industries around the world as hotels are on lockdown amid global travel bans.

To worsen an already dire situation, Zimbabwe has been listed as a red zone by countries like the United Kingdom, meaning less travel between the two countries.

“Recovery to 2019 levels was anticipated by experts around 2023 globally. Being a long-haul destination,it means that recovery for Zimbabwe may take longer. Again, when you factor in the emergency of new variants some of which have led to travel bans into countries such as the UK from southern Africa, this further complicates the situation and renders the future more uncertain,” Chinwada told The NewsHawks.

According to the World Council for Travel and Tourism, global international arrivals dropped by 74% in 2020, spelling doom for most economies which depend on tourism like Zimbabwe.

“That is a phenomenal statistic pointing to the massive knock and toll that Covid-19 has been to the tourism industry,” Chinwada said.

In Zimbabwe, the tourism sector contributes 6.3% of the country’s Zimbabwe’s gross domestic product.
According to Chinwada, the tourism sector remained a key cog of Zimbabwe’s economy which would require confidence to return to its glory days.

With Zimbabwe having received its first batch of the Sinopharm vaccine from China this week, it means health workers and other frontline staff can hope for a return to normalcy, which the tourism sector desperately needs.

“The key factor in recovery of tourism is the issue of the return of confidence within the travelling public. This is hinged on two fundamental issues, namely alignment of protocols and more coordination and uniformity across countries throughout the world and the success of vaccination programmes at a global scale,” Chinwada said.

In the absence of foreign tourists, Zimbabwe will rely on local tourism to stay afloat.

“Again, the issue of whether the current available vaccines are effective on the new strains is a cause for concern. In the short term therefore, the industry will default to reliance on domestic tourism,” Chinwada said.

Local tourism players re-opened their doors late last year after nearly seven months without business, leading to massive retrenchment as companies suffered losses.

The industry was dealt another blow when a second wave of infections forced the government to announce a 30-day strict lockdown in January amid a spike in cases.

Chinwada said tourism players expected to continue the same trend experienced in 2020.

“It is a known fact that most successful destinations across the world are successful because of domestic tourism. In our case, when you look at 2020 you will realise that some of our destinations such as Nyanga, Kariba, Kadoma, Bulawayo and Masvingo were on a sustainable recovery path against the background of the Meetings, Incentives, Conventions and Exhibitions (MICE) driving demand,” Chinwada told The NewsHawks.

“Only Vic Falls, which is an 80% plus international destination, continued to haemorrhage. We therefore expect a similar sort of pattern post this current wave,” he added.