Locals boost tourism business

The Chronicle

Leonard Ncube, Victoria Falls Reporter
THE tourism sector received a major boost from local travellers during the Christmas and New Year festive season, which recorded a spike in domestic traffic, industry leaders have said.

In the absence of international travellers as a result of travel restrictions imposed to mitigate the spread of Covid-19 by various governments including Zimbabwe, the tourism industry had, since March 2020, suffered massive loss of business due to cancellation of bookings compared to previous years.

However, the festive season saw hotels and lodges recording full-house bookings while various activities especially game drives, sunset cruises and helicopter flights were also overwhelmed as locals surprised the tourism sector with the high rates of travelling and spending.

A majority of clients were locals going on holidays as couples, families and groups while a few others were Zimbabweans based in the diaspora who had also returned home for holiday.

The Government recently tightened Covid-19 induced lockdown restrictions — forcing all visitors to undergo mandatory quarantine on arrival, a move that tourism industry leaders said was not favourable for their business.

Across the globe, domestic tourism is now playing a significant role in the resilience of the tourism industry, especially in times of Covid-19 crisis.

In Zimbabwe domestic tourism used to account for 0 percent of bookings in the hey days of tourism with international travellers dominating the business space.

However, Hospitality Association of Zimbabwe (HAZ) Matabeleland North chair, Mr Anald Musonza, said the festive season for 2021 has proved different as local travellers have rescued the sector.

He said efforts to lure domestic tourists have started yielding results as most bookings were from locals from Bulawayo, Gweru and Harare and other cities.

“Most internationals and the diaspora traffic failed to travel in numbers due to the 10-day quarantine requirements of the new Statutory Instrument,” said Mr Musonza.

“The added requirement of testing at the airport regardless of one having a negative PCR test or not also affected a lot of potential visitors who eventually cancelled en-mass.

“The resort was quite busy for 10 days with an average occupancy of about 75 percent. We could have had a higher occupancy had these travel restrictions not affected most of our tourists,” he said.

Mr Musonza said there was hope for a change of fortunes going forward, adding that 2022 was expected to revive operations and impact on livelihoods and industry riding on achievements such as Government-driven vaccination exercise and new investments.

“We have a strong solid base of domestic tourism and the revival of our industry is going to be much faster by removal of all travel restrictions as most of our source markets have removed us from red lists,” he said.

“All we need to do is to remove our own restrictions and quarantine requirements and aligning the PCR test to the regional requirements of 72 hours or longer.”

Employers Association for the Tourism and Safari Operators president, Mr Clement Mukwasi, said there was a need to invest more in domestic tourism especially through rationalising the pricing model to suit locals.

“The festive season was quite busy from the 22nd of December to 1st of January 2022 and the main clients were local Zimbabweans as we did not have international tourists because of the outbreak of the Omicron variant,” he said.

“However, we had a few diasporans who had come home from their various diaspora bases and the nature of Zimbabweans included families, couples and groups.

“Their main areas of interest included game drives, sunset cruises, and helicopter flights and business was good albeit for a short time.”

Mr Mukwasi said the increase in domestic tourist traffic actually ‘surprised the tourism industry’ and revived hopes for more business opportunity.

“It’s a market that was not taken seriously but this time around it filled hotels and activities. They bought food, spent the same way international tourists spend or behave and they actually took us as an industry by surprise,” he said.

“It’s a market we are going to focus on but for us to be inclusive we need to ensure that the pricing models are within reach of an average Zimbabwean who is of middle income.”

Elephant Experience general manager, Ms Senzeni Tshuma, said business was good as local travellers supported the sector.

“In terms of business the festive season was good as we received local tourism. For now business is getting low and we will always look forward to the return of international tourists,” she said.

Elephant Experience offers elephant back safaris, elephant interaction and game drives. — @ncubeleon

Article Source: The Chronicle

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