SAFARI operators have predicted a 35% drop in volume of business when the hunting season begins in May due to the cholera outbreak that has so far claimed more than 3 000 lives since August last year.
Jacob Mudenda, Safari Operators Association of Zimbabwe chairman, told the Zimbabwe Independent this week that he had received numerous inquiries from potential hunting clients who were concerned about the waterborne disease outbreak.
â€œThe greatest challenge we are facing is to get clientele from overseas to come out to Zimbabwe,â€ Mudenda said. â€œThey are questioning whether their health will be assured and if they will get access to clean water. They are also questioning whether they will be treated timeously should they fall sick from the epidemic.â€
Mudenda said the politicisation of the epidemic as well as international media reports of a total breakdown of state institutions had worsened their anxiety.
Â The cholera epidemic, among other concerns by clients, Mudenda said, would result in a loss of business of between 30% to 35 %.
He said other worries by clients included the delay in the formation of a unity government five months after Zanu PF and the two MDC formations signed a power-sharing deal, and adequate access to essential foodstuffs during their stay in the country.Â
Mudenda said safari operators were carrying out an aggressive marketing campaign in collaboration with other stakeholders such as the government and the Zimbabwe Tourism Authority to allay fears that could result in a disastrous hunting season.
He said last yearâ€™s hunting season started late after several clients withdrew due to the inconclusive outcome of the presidential election and the fear of violence that followed after President Robert Mugabe was out-polled by MDC leader Morgan Tsvangirai on March 29.
Mudenda said he did not have figures on the number of clients received during the hunting seasons of the last two years because the Parks and Wildlife Management Authority who collate them have failed to give statistics due to the shortage of manpower. Â
In an effort to boost the number of hunters coming to the country this season, Mudenda said, the association had invited the vice president of the world body, the Safari Club International, Joseph Hosmer, to their annual general meeting in May. Â
â€œThis will give him the opportunity to see for himself that the country is a safe place to visit,â€ he said.
The association, which has more than 70 hunting members, is a vital cog of the tourism sector hard hit by a dearth of tourists due to an adverse political and economic climate since 2000.
BY KUDZAI KUWAZA