BY LORRAINE MUROMO
THE tourism sector in Zimbabwe lost close to US$1 billion due to the Covid-19 pandemic last year, but players in the industry are still optimistic of a rebound in 2022.
Covid-19 disrupted tourists from visiting the country due to prolonged lockdown periods to curb further spread of the respiratory infection.
Zimbabwe Tourism Authority (ZTA) head of corporate affairs, Godfrey Koti told The Standard that although the industry experienced several challenges and lost close to a billion dollars, there was still hope for the future.
“We made zero dollars but we hope that 2022 will be a different year when we get to quantify it financially. It’s been a tough 2021 for tourism but there has been a bit of activity,” Koti said.
“We have seen a bit of movement where the accommodation sector in particular was fully booked in the Eastern Highlands, Kariba, Bulawayo and Victoria Falls, thus contributing 60%.”
Koti said ZTA has put in place measures to mitigate further losses and restore the country’s status on the tourism map.
“In 2020 we launched the national tourism recovery and growth strategy, which strategy was based on three pillars that include domestic tourism focus, the regional marketing element and then international tourism,” he said.
“Pillar number one was the major factor and we predicted that it would be the major focus for three to four years depending on when the pandemic will dissolve.
“We have been focusing on domestic tourism and coming up with a campaign that we want to sustain for a foreseeable future, which is the ‘Zimbo campaign’. It is meant to encourage, bolster and push domestic tourism by all means possible. So far we have seen good results as opposed to 2019 where we lost about US$1 billion worth of income.
“In 2020 we managed to get US$369 million, and this largely came from the domestic market which shows that there is hope of improvement. We have ultimately decided to focus on it in 2022 as this will help us in mitigating some of these gaps that have been shown by the pandemic.”
Koti said the 2022 strategy was to push for domestic tourism by maintaining a serious vaccination drive in the country.
“This makes the country a safer destination although unfortunately towards the end of 2021, we have seen that some of the European countries decided to use a blanket statement to deal with matters that concern the Covid-19 pandemic with an example of the Omicron discovery and communication by one of our Southern African countries,” he said.
Tourism Business Council president Wengai Nhau said the success of the tourism industry in 2022 would hinge on acceptance of ‘the new normal’.
“By having intercity travel banned, and other bans that were imposed on the tourism sector, it meant that whatever profit projections and business performances were made for the year 2021 – these did not come to realization,” Nhau said.
“Out of the 12 months we have on the calendar, as a country we only operated for seven months last year, and we can’t have a vibrant domestic tourism sector with intercity travel banned. A lot of our operators have closed the year on a minus and it is our fear that if we continue doing the same, we are putting operators in a predicament where they might have to close off completely and we do not hope for that.”