The Sunday News
Judith Phiri, Business Reporter
THE Government has said the rolling out of the post Covid-19 tourism impact assessment and stakeholder consultation is critical as it provides a platform for turning around the fortunes of the tourism economy, contributing to the National Tourism Recovery and Growth Strategy and to Vision 2030.
The local tourism industry was among the hardest hit by the effects of the lockdowns that countries put in place after the outbreak of Covid-19.
Tourist receipts fell by 71 percent in 2020 following a 72 percent decline in arrival figures, with this performance said to have taken Zimbabwe 30 years back to 1991 arrivals.
Addressing tourism operators and key stakeholders in Bulawayo on Friday, Minister of Environment, Climate, Tourism, and Hospitality Industry Nqobizitha Mangaliso Ndlovu said the tourism sector was not yet out of the woods, but certainly better off than at the height of Covid-19-related travel restrictions.
“The last two years were tough, and at times I would hear colleagues complain that the Government’s response was on the tough side.
While it appeared severe and tough to some, I can assure you that it was very necessary and indeed strategic that we take no chance in saving lives.
This is one of the cases where perhaps we must acknowledge the end result as justifying the means to an end.
This is not to say we are totally out of the woods but at least we are now able to meet in this manner, which had become almost unimaginable in the last two years,” said Minister Ndlovu.
He said looking back on how the Covid-19 impacted the industry, tourism was one of the hardest hit sectors as it suffered varying degrees of losses which include losses in employment, investment, business, revenue and skills among others.
The minister said the impact of the pandemic on small to medium businesses, on youth businesses, women businesses, rural operators and the various segments of the industry across the country were not uniform.
“In view of the above, the ministry through the Zimbabwe Tourism Authority (ZTA) found it necessary to examine and comprehensively assess the impact of this pandemic to the tourism industry.
The assessment is part of the implementation of the National Tourism Recovery and Growth Strategy that Government launched in 2020.
It is being done with a view to ascertain the actual impact of the pandemic we are emerging from so that appropriate support is rendered as we accelerate recovery in building resilience across various tourism segments and demographics,” he said.
Minister Ndlovu said the assessment would be carried out across the country, focusing on building back better from the small to medium to large enterprises as well as the community-based tourism projects.
“This stakeholder engagement workshop is critical as it provides a platform for potential to turnaround the fortunes of tourism economy thereby contributing to the National Tourism Recovery and Growth Strategy and to Vision 2030.”
Minister of State for Bulawayo Provincial Affairs and Devolution Judith Ncube said tourism has always been one of the main economic pillars in the region, with great potential to turn around fortunes alongside manufacturing, mining and agriculture.
“Bulawayo happens to be one of the country’s most attractive cities, with a pleasing mixture of natural attractions, heritage sites, culture, cuisine, the Victorian and modern architecture which gives it a unique character,” she said.
She said apart from loss of lives due to Covid-19, the city lost business, revenue and employment, among others.
The post-Covid-19 tourism impact assessment and stakeholder consultation process is being supported by the Agence Francaise de Development (AFD).