Tourism companies operating in Bulawayo lost business worth about USD$120 000 during the shutdown protests last month.
The protests left a trail of destruction with most shops in the western suburbs vandalised and looted.
Speaking during an inter-ministerial taskforce tour of the affected places in Bulawayo recently, Zimbabwe Tourism Authority (ZTA) regional manager for the southern region Novuyo Mathonsi said the sector was heavily affected by the mass protests.
“The protests which took place on January 14 resulted in violence and looting in most of the high-density suburbs in Bulawayo. Business was brought to a standstill and tourism business was affected in terms of cancellation and inability to make bookings and payments,” said Mathonsi.
She added, “Effects of the shutdown resulted in negative publicity of Bulawayo destination and its environment. Pictures of the city being negatively published regionally and internationally.”
Mathonsi said the negative portrayal of the protests in the international media gave the wrong impression to potential visitors to the country.
She revealed that online bookings by tourists contribute an average of 50 percent of the tourism industry as this is convenient and saves time for their clients.
“Of the statistics we received, companies that deal with hunters, tour guides and accommodation lost about USD$120 000 as clients were a no-show and some canceled.
“Suspension of flights and disruption of aviation services following the protests were a huge setback. Fast jet from Harare to Bulawayo canceled all its flights on January 14 citing unrest across the country up until January 16. This meant grounding all domestic plans due to mandatory service of their incomes,” said Mathonsi.
“These affected the business negatively. Random sampling across Bulawayo showed that about $125 000 was lost in the three days. These are Hunters organisations, accommodation, and tour operators.
“Violence resulted in public transport pulling off the roads. Tour operators and coaches suspended business for the duration of the protests. Domestic and mice tourism (meetings and events) were canceled due to these protests”.
Finance Minister Professor Mthuli Ncube who led the government delegation said the government would set up a fund to assist local business which affected.
“Hundreds of businesspeople lost property, people lost employment and families were impacted. We, therefore, want to give them a head start and help them start again. We’ll be setting up a fund to raise the $19, 5 million to assist the business people. We’re here to support businesses and help them recover,” said Prof Ncube.