Globally, the tourism sector has been heavily hit due to COVID-19 pandemic. It has been reported that tourist arrivals plummeted by over 20 per cent in the first quarter of this year. That decrease translated into a loss of over US$80 billion. In Zimbabwe, the losses have been placed at anything between half a billion and one billion US dollars. This has been so retrogressive considering the fact the Zimbabwean government plans to attain a US$5 billion tourism industry 5 years from now. Over 100 million jobs worldwide in the sector were and have been jeopardized by the impact of the pandemic. Airlines had to cancel flights and even stop operating altogether due to little or no travel.  All this stemmed from lockdown restrictions that left local, regional, and international travel at a bare minimum.

Tourism Sector In Zimbabwe

The tourism industry in Zimbabwe is very important to the nation’s GDP. The industry contributes over 6 per cent to the GDP. Close to 100 000 individuals are employed in the local tourism industry. It is worth noting that two of the most sought-after tourist activities in Zimbabwe by international tourists are safaris and Victoria Falls. We have well over 26 tourist destinations in Zimbabwe where people can enjoy game viewing and safari activities.

The top ten countries from which tourist arrivals in Zimbabwe come from are South Africa, Malawi, Zambia, Mozambique, Botswana, United States, United Kingdom, Ireland, Germany, and Japan.

The Latest On The Tourism Sector

The government recently lifted the ban tourism activities that had come into effect because of the pandemic. Let me refer to some of the things Mangaliso Ndhlovu, the tourism minister, said.

Remarks By The Minister of Environment, Climate, Tourism and Hospitality Industry

The resilience of the sector has been tested to the limit over the last six months. It, therefore, comes as a welcome decision that Cabinet has allowed all tourism activities that had remained shut down as part of the measures to contain the Coronavirus pandemic to now resume full operations.

During this period, the ministry led widespread consultations under strict social distancing conditions, which led to the development of the National Tourism Recovery and Growth Strategy. The decision compels us to meticulously examine and re-examine our airports and the whole tourism value chain to ensure that there is a robust Covid-19 support system to support this re-opening.

The industry must therefore invest in and ensure safe operations through protocols such as temperature checkpoints, contact tracing, recording on the arrival of guests, physical distancing markings at their premises, deep cleaning and disinfection of the facility among many others. On its part, the Government will intensify compliance checks together with the relevant arms of Government to ensure players are fully compliant.”

National Tourism Recovery And Growth Strategy

As most of you are aware, President E.D. Mnangagwa recently visited Victoria Falls. The key purpose was to kick-start this initiative. The crux is to revamp Victoria Falls into the vibrant tourism destination as it has always been. The strategy will be meant to stimulate domestic tourism. That will be the first focus as relevant authorities will be evaluating whether or not to resume international tourism. The idea is to see how it all goes by the time we reach the month of December.

Domestic tourism in Zimbabwe is, however, not that potent due to various reasons. One of those reasons is the ailing economy which causes many people to be low-income earners. This makes it a luxury for people to explore tourist attractions in the country. I am not downplaying domestic tourism but I am just underscoring how crucial international tourism is to Zimbabwe’s GDP.

As much as the lifting of restrictions is a good move for the tourism sector there are still some sticky issues. Bear in mind that there are still restrictions on inter-city travel, which immediately deflates the domestic tourism thrust. This is also coupled with restrictions on regional and international travel that are still in effect. This means that tourism will remain largely docile despite the lifting of restrictions on the sector.