The Sunday News
Bruce Ndlovu, Sunday News Reporter
ZIMBABWE is witnessing a surge in domestic tourism, with most operators registering daily occupancy levels of between 80 and 90 percent as locals flock to resorts and other tourist destinations, Environment, Climate, Tourism and Hospitality Minister Nqobizitha Mangaliso Ndlovu has revealed.
With foreign tourists grounded due to Covid-19 restrictions, they had been fears that the country’s tourism industry would be crippled, compromising a sector that is a huge foreign currency earner and vital cog of the country’s economy. However, an aggressive marketing push and attractive packages has seen domestic tourism rebound and surge.
Speaking in an interview while he was on a tour of Khami Ruins on the outskirts of Bulawayo yesterday, Minister Ndlovu said despite the doom and gloom in the sector at the start of Covid-19, things were now looking good for those in the industry as locals were now visiting some of the country’s vaunted tourism sites.
“It’s surprising, this is really at the height of Covid-19 where incomes have been suppressed one way or the other. But as we are moving around from the feedback that we are getting from players within the tourism industry, they are really appreciating the effort and emphasis that we are putting on domestic tourism. There are places that are averaging between 80-90 percent occupancy and it is all because of locals.
“We visited even the safari areas that were telling me that they never used to focus on local tourists. In fact, there are years when they never even hosted a single local tourist but instead, they are now surviving, in fact doing very well, off the back of local people going there to see game and doing activities within safaris,” he said.
Minister Ndlovu said even though international tourism was likely to rebound in the future, it would just be an added bonus as domestic tourism would have built the foundation that the sector is based on.
“We believe if we sustain this local tourism drive, our domestic tourism will be on a huge growth path and international tourism will just become a bonus. We would have contributed to the foundation of our tourism economy using domestic tourists,” he said.
Turning to Khami, Minister said it was a shame that it only averaged 7 000 visitors per year given its scenic beauty and historical significance. He said the Ministry was looking at making a few changes to make it more attractive and visible.
“There are a number of things that we believe we can work on. The first one being the visibility of the place, the signage. Even within the centre we need to have banners that say Khami Momuments 20km or 23km. It has to be clear. Secondly, just to make it more modern, and I know museums won’t like it, I would like the place to be more visible from the gate or even have a guest relations officer who will be smiling just to show that people are coming into a place that represents who we are,” he said.
Among the changes that the Ministry was contemplating, Minister Ndlovu said, was the introduction of wild game at Khami.
“We have also discussed the possibility of having some small game, some plain game. The area is just over 100 hectares and we believe that if we added a few products that do not distort the foundation and the authenticity of the place then we might have more people coming in. I believe really, it’s an injustice to have about 7 000 people coming here per year. We have a bit of work to do together with museums in terms of promotion as well,” he said.
After his tour of Khami, Minister Ndlovu went on to commission facilities at the Tshabalala Game Sanctuary on the outskirts of Bulawayo. The facilities commissioned included a Community Craft Centre, Refreshment Centre and Lion’s Enclosure.