The Sunday News
The tourism sector recovery strategies implemented by the Government and other players have been enhanced with the Cabinet lifting of the remaining Covid-19 protocols at entry points with the industry receiving heightened inquiries from prospective tourists who are eager to sample various destinations.
Last week, the government lifted all Covid-19 protocols that were being implemented at the country’s ports of entry, and tourists are no longer compelled to produce vaccination cards upon arrival in Zimbabwe.
These are part of measures that the country has adopted in response to the latest World Health Organisation’s (WHO) declaration that Covid-19 is no longer a Public Health Emergency of International Concern.
During a post-Cabinet media briefing last week on Tuesday, Information, Publicity and Broadcasting Services Minister Monica Mutsvangwa said the cabinet resolved that all border measures to prevent the spread of Covid-19 be lifted with immediate effect and that tourists should no longer be required to produce Covid-19 vaccination certificates at ports of entry or at tourist resorts around the country.
Zimbabwe went on total lockdown in March 2020 resulting in the closure of the industry including the tourism sector, which was severely affected by the travel restrictions.
Some businesses folded and some are still to reopen while new players were also born.
However, the recovery of the sector had been slow but players in the sector project that recovery will now be quickened.
The Employers Association for Tours and Safari Operators (EATSO) president, Mr Clement Mukwasi said from the day the Cabinet announced the lifting of Covid-19 protocols, inquiries into various tourism destinations increased.
He said the inquiries are from people seeking to invest in the sector and from tourists.
“We are happy with the Government’s decision to remove Covid-19 restrictions following the pronouncements by the World Health Organization (WHO) that Covid-19 is no longer a world public health threat. The pronouncements came early enough and it is going to open up travel space into Zimbabwe,” said Mr Mukwasi.
Covid-19 had totally ravaged the sector, manpower was depleted, some of the infrastructure negatively affected and the route to recovery had been slow before the latest pronouncement by Cabinet.
“However, from the day the announcement was made, we saw a lot of activism on social media platforms and inquiries have increased, therefore this is a positive move by the Government,” said Mr Mukwasi.
“This is what we have been clamoring for from the Government to quickly follow world trends and we will soon witness a growth mode,” he added.
“The opening up of the travel space is going to result in many people flocking into the country and we are also looking at what I term revenge travel where people who had been stopped from travelling due to Covid-19 restrictions are going to flow out of their homes and come to our various tractive areas in the country.
“We have heard a lot of inquiries even before the pronouncement was made by prospective investors who want to invest in the tourism industry in Zimbabwe.
“Therefore, following the Cabinet lifting of Covid-19 protocols, we are likely to witness some of those deals being fruitful, investments in the tourism sector going higher.”
According to the United Nations World Tourism Organisation (UNWTO), international arrivals reached 80 percent of pre-pandemic levels in the first quarter of the year, a growth trajectory expected to continue in the year.
Tourism receipts increased by 133 percent from US$288,8 million in 2021 to US$672,9 million in 2022 while tourism investments rose by 239 percent from US$90,4 million to US$306,7 million, compared to the same period in 2021, the ministry has said.
The government expects that the review of the National Tourism Policy (NTP) will create a more resilient and robust post Covid-19 sector that is anchored on solid recovery and growth.
Tourism is one of the key economic pillars and the sector is expected to contribute more towards economic growth in line with the upper middle-income economy vision by 2030.