POTENTIAL revenues totalling US$3 billion are being wasted in Zimbabwe’s tourism industry annually as current arrivals have failed to help the sector reach full potential, new data showed this week.
However, in its inaugural edition of the ZTA Newsletter released recently, the Zimbabwe Tourism Authority (ZTA) says while bad for a country that has thrust its leisure sector at the heart of current recovery efforts, the US$3 billion gap presents opportunities for investors.
Zimbabwe nets about US$2 billion in annual tourism revenues.
But authorities launched multiple strategies to scale up revenue to about US$5 billion by 2025.
Arrivals are projected to reach five million in the next five years, from 2,5 million in 2018.
“There is a US$3 billion gap between the current market size and the anticipated market size,” the newsletter says.
“The US$3 billion represents opportunity. Looking at the anticipated market size, it therefore means that the Zimbabwean tourism industry is filled with opportunities. We see this as a great opportunity to re-organise and capacitate (investors) to take up space in the tourism sector. While the Covid-19 may have ravaged dreams in the industry, it is clear that with the right mindset we can take advantage of the future in tourism.”
The newsletter notes that decisions by governments across the world to ground airlines and restrict international travel pushed foreign tourist arrivals into Zimbabwe down by 90% this year, the biggest plunge in 40 years.
The sector had projected to scale up arrivals by 30%, riding on improved access after major airport revamps and aggressive forays into the world’s richest source markets.
But the newsletter says the sector’s darkest patch almost grounded the economy after losing US$1 billion.
Industry regulator, the ZTA said the good news is tourism has begun the first steps towards its much-awaited bounce back.
For now, however, a stronger recovery may not be guaranteed as the pandemic has been making fresh inroads into the country, with health officials reporting upsurges in new cases recently.
Writing in the newsletter, Godfrey Koti, head of corporate affairs at ZTA, said strict compliance to World Health Organisation guidelines would remain in force at tourist resorts, possibly giving travellers confidence about their safety.
This week, the Civil Aviation Authority of Zimbabwe (Caaz) said over 60% of passenger airlines operating scheduled frequencies into Zimbabwean destinations had returned since Harare lifted air travel restrictions in October, in what it noted was a “good and promising restart”.
“Zimbabwe’s tourism sector, as with many industries, is slowly staggering to a new-normal after a tumultuous few months of uncertainty,” Koti says, writing in the newsletter.
“The tourism sector is a major foreign currency earner, generating just over US$1,3 billion from 2, 5 million tourist arrivals recorded in 2018. The freezing of international and domestic travel has significantly impacted tourism, destabilising a forecasted 30% growth in domestic tourism by end of 2020.”
During the period under review, international tourist arrivals in Zimbabwe declined by between 30% and 90%, making a loss of close to US$1 billion in tourism receipts.
However, the recovery of the key foreign currency earner has been gaining momentum with various tourism players throughout the country reopening facilities from October.