Covid-19: Zim tourism far from recovery

The country’s tourism sector still has a long way to go before recovering from the devastating effects of the unprecedented blow of Covid-19.

The industry, considered one of the low hanging fruits in as far as economic revival is concerned, has been hard-hit by the pandemic with the United Nations World Tourism Organisation (UNWTO) global estimates showing a 97 % drop in global arrivals, between March and April 2020.

Zimbabwe’s foreign tourist arrivals followed the global path to April 2020 and average hotel occupancy rates, which had peaked to 33% in February from 27% in January dipped to a low of 3% in March 2020.

Although the Southern African country instituted lockdown measures towards the end of March, other countries constituting tourism source markets had already taken precautionary steps to manage the pandemic.

“Therefore, as domestic lockdown measures eventually took effect, most facilities had already started feeling the impact of the pandemic,” said Finance and Economic Development Minister, Mthuli Ncube, in his mid-term fiscal policy review last Thursday.

“Hence domestic measures further added to the predicament of the local tourism hospitality companies some of which recorded near zero receipts from accommodation facilities after the lockdown. As a part of the recovery from the pandemic, the government has adopted a gradual re-opening approach, albeit with strict conditions, which potentially allow the domestic tourism and hospitality industry to recover in the near term.”

Ncube said the recovery strategy during the last half of 2020 was expected to remain inward looking with initial focus on domestic tourism while monitoring and assessing implications from opening to international tourism.

“Any easing of travel restrictions and opening up of the airline transport system will create an opportunity to gradually resume international tourism, although both tourists and service providers will require to take extraordinary caution to avoid a resurgence of infections which can trigger further lockdown measures,” said Ncube.

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