By Hillary Munedzi
Zimbabwe’s leading hotels and leisure companies are hoping to recoup lost revenue with the domestic tourism sector expected to rebound to its former glory with international flights coming into the country.
African countries are expecting an influx of international tourists as major airlines are expanding their business into the continent with holidaymakers planning trips to their favourite holiday resorts like Victoria Falls and Nyanga in the Eastern Highlands.
Mr. Charlton Chimbira, Hospitality Association of Zimbabwe (HAZ) chapter chairman for Manicaland said the province is anticipating a boom in business from international tourists.
‘We are anticipating a spike in business, especially from international tourists with international flights coming into the country. The international travellers can plan trips to Zimbabwe since they now know international flights have resumed operations into the country, with no imminent lockdowns like in Asia, China to be specific,” he said.
The hotelier guru expressed optimism as the industry has been having a steady flow of revenue from intra-regional and domestic tourism. The resumption of international airlines is a shot in the arm, with Manicaland province presenting itself as an attractive tourist destination.
“Manicaland presents itself as a cheap alternative as compared to other mature markets like Victoria Falls, Durban, and Cape Town. We have a lot of activities that will attract tourists. The province has a lot of facilities for vaccination and it is leading the pack in terms of people who are vaccinated as compared to other tourist destinations in the country. Statistics don’t lie,” he said.
The government allocated a US$20 million stimulus fund for the tourism sector to mitigate the impacts of the novel coronavirus on the industry and help to resuscitate the industry.
“The coronavirus has hurt the hospitality sector, especially in areas like Nyanga, Vumba, and Chimanimani, and in terms of revenue generation they didn’t have any and as of yet in Manicaland, we haven’t seen any stimulus package coming from the government as there are modalities concerning the access of the stimulus package.
“The stimulus package will help and will go a long way since most of the facilities are in very difficult working conditions to access working capital, to recapitalize and normalize operations, ” he said.
However, the hotel industry is being driven by innovative ways of attracting clients that mainly focus on large-scale business events and the sector is getting out of the woods.
“With the local arrivals, we have seen a huge shift with a lot of people and businesses trying to finish work that should have been done a few months ago. We have seen quite a surge in occupancies and we are talking about what we call the MICE business which stands for Meetings, Incentives, Conferences, and Exhibitions.
“MICE is an important part of business-related tourism. It reunites a large number of people that participate in planning – from sponsors and suppliers to travel agents. What makes this sector profitable is that MICE travellers usually spend large sums on local services, such as accommodation, conference centres, and restaurants,” Mr. Chimbira said.
Most of the hotels in the province have been refurbished, a feat that has enhanced their competitive advantage.
The tourism sector is crucial to the economic stability of Zimbabwe and contributes about 6% to GDP.
Ethiopian Airlines recently announced a flight to Bulawayo connecting 4 times a week from London-Heathrow commencing 30th October 2022 and connecting on the new additional Saturday service from Manchester Airport effective 5th November 2022.