GOVERNMENT is consulting tourism stakeholders in the country to assess the impact of the Covid-19 pandemic on the industry, amid calls by players in the sector for establishment of a cushioning fund to revitalize tourism.
Zimbabwe went on total lockdown in March 2020 resulting in the closure of industry including the tourism sector, which was severely affected by the travel restrictions.
Some business folded and some are still to reopen while new players were also born.
Now that the industry is slowly coming back to life, the Government wants to assess the impact of the pandemic so as to come up with strategies to shape the future of the sector post Covid-19.
Three consultative meetings have been held so far in Bulawayo, Kariba and Victoria Falls where the Government, through the Zimbabwe Tourism Authority, has engaged a consultant AFD of France to consult stakeholders.
Speaking at a recent consultative meeting in Victoria Falls, industry players reiterated the call for a bailout package and coming up with strategies to improve access to the destination by attracting airlines.
Stakeholders said the tourism industry needs new products for diversity, new marketing strategies, improvement in accommodation facilities, promotion of community tourism and night life in Victoria Falls, as well as revisiting pricing models.
ZTA chief operating officer, Givemore Chidzidzi, said the consultation is part of a big process, encompassing digital, which is being undertaken through questionnaires that have already been sent to operators, support sector and enabler sectors.
“As we are collecting information through questionnaires, some face-to-face interaction became necessary to get more input,” he said.
“We are encouraging operators in the tourism industry to take it seriously so that we come up with a proper way forward for the tourism sector to move post Covid-19.
“Stakeholders have proposed a number of recommendations among them the need for cushioning, support and assistance from Government and other partners for the tourism industry to bounce back.”
Chidzidzi said there is need to come up with frameworks for strategies on domestic and international tourism.
The consultations will be concluded end of August and before a report is submitted for validation. Zimbabwe Tourism Business Council of Zimbabwe (RBCZ) president, Wengayi Nhau, said hopes were high that the industry will soon return to the 2019 arrival figures judging by the activity in Victoria Falls, the country’s prime destination.
“This is an importance process for the industry as it focuses on how best we can resuscitate. We are trying to interrogate ways to speed up recovery and keep the industry open,” he said.
Hospitality Industry Association of Zimbabwe Matabeleland North president, Anald Musonza, said there is need for strategies that can make tourists fly directly into the country and stay longer.
“What struck us the most is the need for us not to forget about domestic tourism to make sure it is grown and nurtured so that it can sustain the sector,” he said.
“We need to improve access into the destination by creating a conducive environment for airlines to fly directly and extend period of stay for clients.”
Musonza implored the industry to work together with Government in improving access to the destination and boost confidence in the tourism.
Communities should benefit from tourism and concurred that the outlook looks brighter with occupancies beginning to rise.