By Anyway Yotamu
With the government announcing the reopening of the tourism sector across the country after five months of closure following the health and safety guidelines approved by the Cabinet, players in the industry are feeling the pinch of economic hardships.
Mangaliso Ndlovu, the Minister of Tourism said the government will focus strongly on boosting domestic tourism and has already dedicated a ZWL$500 million bank guarantee facility to aid the sector which is on its knees because of the deadly novel coronavirus pandemic.
Several tour operators across the country have already released special offers for locals to encourage domestic tourism.
Some tourism players are saying the ZWL$500 million dollar aid is not enough since there is a need to look into a lot of short term measures, especially on domestic tourism which is very critical for the economic recovery in the sector.
In an interview with this publication, Hospitality Association of Zimbabwe (HAZ) President, Mr. Clive Chinwada said domestic tourism will be critical for the recovery of the sector by itself but won’t be enough.
“As such, there has always been the need for a cocktail of measures in the short term whilst awaiting the eventual return of international travel. With the current economic challenges faced by the country, the sector will still feel the pinch.
“With this in mind, the fiscal stimulus in the form of the ZWL$500 million would come in handy. I will hasten to say that the delayed implementation of this package has been such that the initial proposed value has been lost to inflation. It will be good if the industry were to be able to access it to serve the sector from collapse,” said Chinwada.
The Tourism Business Council of Zimbabwe (TBCZ) Vice President Mr. Wengayi Nhau said, “We appreciate every effort which government and other stakeholders are doing to try and assist to mitigate against the impacts of the COVID-19 in the tourism sector. It was a good coincidence in the sense that when we had this fund rolled out by the government sometimes last year we had no clue that we could have a situation where we had to shut down our businesses due to the outbreak of the COVID-19 pandemic.
“A lot of operators might have the infrastructure and equipment to deliver but what they need most is working capital so as we start we’re now focusing on working capital. With this gesture by the government we appreciate and urge our members and stakeholders to start engaging financial institutions to try to access these funds,” said Nhau.
Mr. Nhau also urged everyone in the sector to start preparing for the next season, all things equal, by re-equipping facilities and motivating employees by giving them something since some of the companies were struggling during the past five months of closure.
Speaking at a press conference when he announced the reopening of the sector, Tourism Minister Mangaliso Ndlovu thanked all tourism stakeholders who stood firm during the closure of business for the past five months.
“l wish to once again, thank the Tourism Industry for its resilience during this difficult time and assure you that we will surely bounce back as an industry and achieve our set goals for a US$5billion Tourism Economy by the year 2025. Let us, therefore, continue to engage in dialogue so that brick by brick, we all join hands to re-build our industry and ensure we make it contribute more to the economic growth and prosperity of our beautiful Zimbabwe,” said Minister Ndlovu.
According to the Zimbabwe Statistics Agency (ZimStart), the tourism sector is one of the biggest country’s revenues earners after mining and agriculture and the sector is expected to rise to US$5 billion by 2025.