World Cup ‘spin-offs’ falling flat

ZIMBABWE’S hospitality industry players are not blowing any vuvuzelas for the first soccer World Cup show to be hosted in Africa.

Tourism and Hospitality minister Walter Mzembi told the Zimbabwe Independent on Thursday that Zimbabwe expected US$200 million from World Cup spin-offs, figures disputed by business as unrealistic.
“Zimbabwe leveraging with its proximity to South Africa can expect up to a 100 000 tourism arrivals and a revenue generation of US$200 million if all the enablers are in place,” said Mzembi.
The enablers, according to Mzembi are “a working Beitbridge border post, enabling visa regime, use of plastic money, uninterrupted supplies of water and electricity, open-skies and correct political signals (perception issues),” said Mzembi, pointing to “enablers” that business says Zimbabwe would be unable to put in place by World Cup kick-off in two weeks.
Although they couldn’t reveal their own figures, industry players told the Independent that government projects of World Cup spin-offs were falling flat as the event neared.
Despite the tournament being next door, industry players say hotel occupancy rates are subdued and airline passenger bookings are low, as teams and fans travelling to South Africa for the tournament give Zimbabwe a pass.
“It is not something that we should blow our trumpet over,” Shingi Munyeza, CEO of African Sun, the country’s biggest hotel chain, said of potential World Cup revenues trickling into Zimbabwe.
“The benefits have been exaggerated. People do not come to Zimbabwe to watch soccer in South Africa,” said Munyeza, adding that only hotels in Victoria Falls, which some South African tour operators include on their brochures, could get a piece of the action.
Zimbabwe’s hospitality industry, like other sectors of the economy, is struggling to sustain and improve on the recovery that followed the initial days of the coalition government.
A recent report by the Sports, Tourism, Image and Communications taskforce, which was tasked with co-coordinating World Cup-related events said poor planning, lack of coordination, official hesitation in the implementation of various programmes lined up ahead of the event, bureaucracy and collapsing infrastructure had affected
Zimbabwe’s chances of benefiting from the World Cup.
The World Cup was expected to boost the hospitality industry’s recovery, but players such as RTG chief executive officer (CEO) Chipo Mtasa say they have lost hope.
“The opportunities might come but we are not giving it (the World Cup) any hype. We see very limited opportunities in the local market, nothing much really,” said Mtasa, whose group, the second largest after African Sun, operates hotels, lodges and a tourism services unit service that provides tour guides for tourists.
Meikles Ltd Group, which owns Harare’s luxury Meikles Hotel and Kingdom Hotel in Victoria Falls, said business remained subdued. Meikles chief executive Brendan Beaumont told the Independent that the firm had not recorded World Cup bookings.
“In general terms there has been no major improvement in our occupancy rates and earnings. The Kingdom Hotel does show some signs of late interest though,” he said.
Local airlines haven’t been flying high either.
Responding to questions from the Independent, Fly Kumba CEO, Lloyd Muchaka said no one in the hospitality and airlines business in Zimbabwe had generated profits, adding that this was unlikely to change after the tournament. Fly Kumba, which operates the Bulawayo-Johannesburg route, said it hoped to cash in more on school children going for holidays than on the World Cup.
“We believe the school holidays in South Africa have improved the bookings, not necessarily the soccer,” said Muchaka.
Sluggish arrivals figures in South Africa caused by high travel, accommodation and match ticket costs have compounded local hospitality industry players’ problems.

 

Paul Nyakazeya

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