ZIMBABWE’S city hotels will recover at a quicker pace than properties located in holiday resorts, driven by a drop in Covid-19 infections and a rebound in global business travel, according to Tinashe Munjoma, general manager at the five–star Meikles Hotel.
Until now, there were fears that pandemic induced restrictions would continue to paralyse the US$2 billion industry several months after government lifted them as markets continue to trend carefully.
In an interview with businessdigest this week, Munjoma appeared to predict that recovery would not be even.
Some tourism industry subsectors like wildlife, and even hunting, would come out of troubles much slower than others.
Tourism, which generates about US$2 billion annually, was one of the sectors worst hit by the pandemic that broke out in 2020, with Zimbabwe suffering a 90% plunge in arrivals between March and October, one of the sharpest slowdowns in 40 years.
Meikles was already preparing for the recovery by undertaking extensive refurbishments of one of the country’s biggest hotels.
“Although a lot of holiday makers will take more precaution due to coronavirus, corporate travel will certainly grow, and city hotel occupancies should recover back to normal,” Munjoma said.
“A lot of changes have taken place in the hospitality industry worldwide and remaining competitive in this competitive market is very important. Meikles Hotel would like to maintain its dominance in Zimbabwe as the premium hotel, flow of business and stay ahead of the competition,” he said.
Meikles was in 2020 taken over by the Dubai based Albwardy Investments in a US$20 million deal.
The giant, which has a presence in over 20 countries with a total workforce of 10 000 across the world, is said to be flexing its financial muscle, as part of an ambition to dominate the Zimbabwean market.
“ASB would like to bring their vision on this historic property to life, as we wait for business to fully come back to normal,” Munjoma added.
He expects the first phase of refurbishments to be undertaken over nine months.
Munjoma said the hotel was affected by the government decision last year to impose a 10-day quarantine on tourists coming into the country, even if they tested positive for Covid-19.
“Before this 10-day restriction, we had started witnessing a steady flow of business into the hotel and when these new measures were imposed there were cancellations,” he revealed.
“The restrictive measures scared away a lot of guests, though they were never actually adhered to.
“While we welcome the recent opening up of borders by the government, as this will enhance travel, we urge the government to reconsider the current Covid–19 testing requirements, especially to vaccinated travellers.
“This will further bolster travel. The current 48 hour requirement is an added administration cost for inbound travellers.
“A lot of hotels need a facelift and working capital as they reposition themselves and recover from the effects of the pandemic,” Munjoma added.