THE Zimbabwe Tourism Authority (ZTA) says domestic tourism recorded an uptick in the last quarter of 2020 after the government rolled out a programme to reduce prices for local tourists.
Dubbed ZimBho, the domestic tourism campaign was launched after Covid-19 inspired lockdowns resulted in the industry losing about US$1 billion during the 10 months to October after arrivals plunged by 90%.
“In the first eight months of last year there was no activity in the tourism sector and we lost about US$1 billion,” said Godfrey Koti, head of corporate affairs at ZTA. “But we saw an improvement in domestic tourism in the last quarter. The key driver was a reduction in accommodation pricing, and another reduction from the food sector. Big players such as African Sun, who normally charge US$120 per room per night were charging as low as US$55 per person per night. There were tax rebates for players, there were tax holidays for players. There was a general feeling from the government that this is a very sensitive sector and if it remained as it was in terms of pricing, there would be no activity.”
Governments worldwide responded to the Covid-19 pandemic by rolling out lockdowns which prevented travel. The implications of the decisions hit tourism-dependent economies like Zimbabwe hard and inspired a 4,1% gross domestic product decline last year.
Major tourist source markets include the United States, Britain, South Africa and China, which all took the sharpest knock as the pandemic paralysed the global economy.
Under the National Tourism Recovery and Growth Strategy released in August last year, most of the government’s strategies will revolve around promoting domestic tourism.
The authorities face a tough task promoting local tourism in an environment where incomes have been eroded by hyperinflation, currency volatilities and de-industrialisation.
“What we are trying to come up with is a sustainable pricing method. But there are also issues that are beyond our control,” Koti said.
This week, the Tourism Business Council of Zimbabwe (TBCZ) said with the second wave intensifying, more travel restrictions would be announced and the industry would suffer.
“The second wave of the Covid-19 pandemic has really dealt a blow to tourism. Not just domestic tourism, but international tourism as well. What tends to happen in cases where we have a spike in infections and the number of people dying from pandemic is that the government puts in restrictions on movement which then adversely affects tourism at large,” said Winnie Muchanyuka, TBCZ president. “We had been using domestic tourism as a launch pad for the recovery of tourism but this would be obviously slowed down now that we have the restriction that we have in place as the government tries to curb or slow down the rate of infections countrywide.”
She said the tourism industry had practiced all the recommended Covid-19 measures to reduce the spread of the coronavirus.
Muchanyuka said despite the increase in infections the sector remained ready to welcome visitors. Government expects to earn US$571 million in total tourism receipts this year.