THE Zimsun Leisure group says due to the massive downturn in the tourism sector the group will now focus on the conference business, filling the vacuum left by the lack of arrivals from the E
uropean and Asian markets.
This is despite impressive figures released by the Zimbabwe Tourism Authority (ZTA) at the Hospitality Association of Zimbabwe (HAZ) annual congress last week.
The ZTA said domestic visitors to resorts had risen by 5% while international tourists had dropped by only 12%.
The two organisations also said 2,53 million international visitors were received in 2001, which translates to US$81,4 million.
The organisations said last year Zimbabwe received 2,5 million visitors, which generated US$75,7 million.
Tourism analysts have however said the figures were “grossly misleading”.
Zimsun said it had now begun expanding and building conference rooms in its major hotels in a bid to fill the vacuum left by the traditional type of tourism – room bookings.
A company official said: “Because of the collapse of the mainstream tourism we have now decided to concentrate on the conference business. We however do have the capacity to stage some major conferences.”
Room bookings are currently low in some of the group’s hotels.
The controversial land resettlement programme contributed to the negative publicity facing Zimbabwe’s tourism sector.
One of the hardest hit under the group is Hwange Safari Lodge, which until now had been a cash cow for the group.
Due to the low turnout in inter-national tourists the hotel’s contri-bution to the total group turnover has decreased over the last five years.
To revive the contribution of the hotel, plans are underway to construct a conference room “to fulfill the read market”.
Hwange Safari Lodge general manager Leonard Chihwayi said the hotel was now poised to begin to contribute significantly to Zimsun.
He said the group was now targeting the corporate and domestic market, “an area that we have for years neglected”
The drive for conference business has begun taking root in Zimsun, expanding the conferencing facilities in Holiday Inn Bulawayo and Beitbridge.
The group said Elephant Hills Intercontinental Hotel, which was gutted by fire nearly two years ago, would officially open on June 20.
Zimsun said that the hotel had begun accepting some guests in the first week of March but the official opening was expected to “enhance the group’s earnings for the upcoming results”.
Officials said the finishing touches at the hotel were being made.
“We were scheduled to have completed the renovations by now but due to the problems we will likely delay,” said resident manager Sebastine Mavhengere.
Zimsun chief executive officer Shingi Munyeza said bookings for April and May were above management’s expectations.