ZIMBABWE’S tourist arrivals rose by 93% during the first quarter of this year, as international holidaymakers trooped back to the country’s resorts in response to relaxed pandemic curbs worldwide, Tourism minister Mangaliso Ndlovu told businessdigest this week.
He said arrivals increased to 126 955 during the period, from 65 882 during the same period in 2021.
Business travel has also increased in the past few months, and more conferences have been held, driving hotel occupancy levels. Ndlovu said domestic tourism also rebounded during the period, pushing hotel occupancy rate to over 30% from about 14% previously.
The steep rise marked the first real growth of the industry, which crashed by 90% in 2020, the sharpest such plunge in 40 years.
Operators said at the time this was one of the darkest patches in the country’s tourism industry, which was triggered by governments’ decisions to ground airlines and restrict international travel to stem contagion as the Covid-19 scourge tore through the world, toppling hospitality empires and leaving millions out of employment.
“There have been many positive developments in the tourism sector starting at the beginning of the year and the performance of the sector continues to be positive,” the minister told businessdigest.
“As of the first quarter of the year, international tourist arrivals have risen by 93% to 126 955 from 65 882 in the same period in 2021. There have been positive performances in all areas including domestic tourism and accommodation facility utilisation. For example, the average hotel utilisation has risen by 20 percentage points from 14% in 2021 to 34% this year. Based on this positive performance in the first quarter the tourism sector is expected to fare much better in 2022 compared to 2021,” he said.
He said Zimbabwe must improve its tourism products in order to compete with regional peers and global players.
“Although many initiatives have been implemented in order to improve the destination image and competitiveness, the country needs to improve in terms of tourism product offering and support services. Due to Covid-19, the sector lost a critical mass of skilled manpower since the sector was literally shut down. There is a need for support to reskill our workforce to remain competitive. The industry has not been able to refurbish (hotels) due to limited lines of credit and high cost of borrowing. As such, the product is lagging behind when compared to other products within the region,” he added.
Ndlovu said in terms of support services such as feeder roads to and within attractions, the government was implementing the road rehabilitation programme.
He added that there was still a lot of work to be done in this regard.
He said there was a need to continue probing the ease of doing business in the country to make it more efficient and less costly.