GOVERNMENT is aiming to increase the capacity utilisation of the tourism sector to 60% by the end of the first quarter of 2021, as it recovers from the devastating impact of the Covid-19 pandemic.
The tourism sector is reeling from the impact of the pandemic and the resultant national lockdown, which has nearly grounded its operations.
The Zimbabwe National Chamber of Commerce has estimated that 25% of jobs in the sector will be wiped out as a result of the scourge. Government, which is looking to domestic tourism to drive the revival of the sector, has set aside ZW$500 million (about US$6,1 million) for the revival of the sector. This is part of an ZW$18 billion (about US$220 million) stimulus package by the government to resuscitate businesses that have been hit hard by the impact of Covid-19-induced lockdowns.
In an interview with businessdigest this week, Tourism minister Mangaliso Ndhlovu said the government wants to resuscitate the industry by increasing its capacity utilisation from the current 40% to 60% by the first quarter of next year.
“It will be a slow reopening. Realistically we are looking at the capacity utilisation for the sector to go up to 60% by the end of the first quarter of next year,” Ndhlovu said.
“The fortnightly reports we get from the hotels show that their performances have been erratic. One fortnight the performance is good and another fortnight, the performance is not so good.”
Ndhlovu is optimistic that travel during the upcoming Christmas period, particularly from those coming to the country from South Africa, will boost the tourism sector.
“I have a good feeling about the rest of the year,” Ndhlovu said.
He, however, pointed out that the curfew, which has been put in place as part of lockdown regulations to contain the Covid-19 pandemic, has proved to be a challenge in the efforts to revive the sector.
The drive to revive the sector through domestic tourism is also threatened by the dwindling disposable incomes for most Zimbabweans who are paid in local currency. The domestic currency has rapidly lost value since its introduction last year.
“We do have a challenge with disposable incomes in terms of accessibility,” Ndhlovu concedes.
“We are in discussions with operators in the sector to come up with packages that will encourage people to travel,” he said.
The tourism minister added that it is looking to inculcate a culture whereby people save over a period of time in order to travel to the country’s resort areas.
Ndhlovu said government is also addressing the issue of exorbitant pricing in the country’s resort areas.
“They have been getting away with murder for a long time,” he said.
“We have had discussions with those in the sector over the cost structure and there will be progress in this area.”
Ndhlovu said it was premature to go into detail about the discussions as they are yet to finalise them. He said the measures the government has taken to promote tourism, which include the scrapping of duty on capital equipment, is testimony to its commitment to the sector.
“The sector has never had it so good in terms of government support,” Ndhlovu said. “It shows the confidence the government has in the sector and its ability to create jobs.”