Zimbabwean tourism feels the pinch


TOURISM players have called on Government to come up with policies that give the sector a soft landing and create conditions for it’s recovery from the Covid-19 induced restrictions.

Sector capacity utilisation has dropped to around 5 percent down from festive season levels where hotel occupancy was between 50 percent and full occupancy.

The sector had been showing signs of resurgence from the first wave of the Covid-19 global pandemic buoyed by domestic tourism before the more virulent second wave which saw Government declaring a lockdown.

Tourism players have called on Government to maintain or review some policies affecting the tourism sector to ensure its speedy recovery after the slump.

Hospitality Association of Zimbabwe immediate past president Mr Innocent Manyera said the move to lockdown the country by Government was commendable but the tourism needed policy interventions to ensure it recovers quickly.

Tourism is regarded as a low hanging fruit for the country’s drive to attain middle income economic status by 2030 with a contribution of at least 10 percent to the country’s Gross Domestic Product (GDP).

“As operators we are facing quite a rough patch and it’s no longer a sneeze but in actual fact we are off the rails in terms of business where we are talking about less than 5 percent capacity utilisation of all the travel and tourism industry,” said Mr Manyera.

“It’s a bad situation. End of last year we were in the recovery mode. We are back to zero. The lockdown is a necessary evil to live with because we need our guests, workers and everyone globally to be safe. We supported Government to implement the protocols.”

The tourism industry, he said, was vulnerable as attractions and drawcards cannot be moved to areas where demand is found.

“If you look at most of the attractions including Victoria Falls, Eastern Highlands and Kariba among others are supported with business from Harare and with the current lockdown people cannot move to those areas. By the same token you cannot move the attractions to Harare,” said Mr Manyera.

To that end, he said, Government agencies should not tinker with prevailing conditions and policies while a stimulus package for the sector is being worked out.

Of major concern was the review of the foreign currency liquidation portion for tourism industry players where they are expected to liquidate 40 percent from 20 percent.

This, he said, created distortions as taxation from Zimra was based on the full amount received.

“Liquidation of foreign currency receipts from tourism from 20 percent to 40 percent is a disadvantage to players in the sector. When you want to pay to other agencies such as Zimra, Zimparks fees and Zimbabwe Tourism Authority (ZTA) want 40 percent of the actual forex received without taking into consideration that we have shared with Government already,” he said.

Mr Manyera said the stimulus package should be strengthened so that other players benefit.

Given the fragility of the tourism sector, said Mr Manyera, there was need to come up with policies and interventions that minimize shocks to the sector.