THE ailing economy and political unrest in the country have resulted in the reduction of tourist arrivals in the country in 2019, the Tourism Business Council of Zimbabwe (TBCZ) has said.
The tourism sector has not been spared the deepening economic crisis characterised by a debilitating liquidity crunch, foreign currency shortage, prolonged power outages that last up to 18 hours daily — all of which have severely crippled production and runaway inflation of more than 400%.[ihc-hide-content ihc_mb_type=”show” ihc_mb_who=”reg,1,2″ ihc_mb_template=”1″ ]
The killing of more than a dozen civilians in January this year by soldiers during demonstrations against a 150% hike in fuel price and running battles between police and demonstrating opposition party members, as well as other groupings throughout the year, have also impacted negatively on the sector.
TBCZ chief executive Paul Matamisa told businessdigest that the year 2019 has recorded a decline in tourists.“The tourism arrivals had been building up over that last few years particularly in 2018 which was a very good year but this year we had a bit of a decline,” Matamisa said.
“The state of the economy has affected arrivals, particularly with issues to do with power cuts and fuel shortages. They have really affected us. The sector continues to struggle with these issues.”
Matamisa said some tourists have shied away from visiting the country due to the political unrest in the country, which has been characterised by the beating up of opposition Movement of Democratic Change supporters by police for marching without clearance, as well as abductions of members of civil society and the opposition by suspected state agents.
“There is no doubt that this unrest has really affected us,” Matamisa said.“Tourism is a product that comes with a peaceful environment. The running battles we have witnessed mean an absence of peace and this has resulted in some tourists shying away.”
Matamisa said the refusal by government to remove the 15% tax on foreign visitors, which it says is in line with international best practice, will make the country less competitive as a tourist destination.
“The retention of the 15% tax is a major blow for the sector,” Matamisa said. “As a designated exporter we are supposed to get benefits that should facilitate us in competing with the globe. The 15% tax does not help us to achieve this.”
However, he commended government for rebates which some of the players in the sector have benefitted from, but pointed out that there are still sub-sectors which play a critical role in the development of tourism in the country that has not received the rebates. This, Matamisa said, puts them at a disadvantage.
He said he hoped that next year will be better for a sector that is recovering from years of a battered image due to political unrest and the violent and haphazard fast-track land redistribution programme of 2000.