Oliver Kazunga, Senior Business Reporter
TOURIST arrivals into the country dropped by 11 percent by the end of 2019 to 2,29 million compared to 2,57 million in 2018 due to destination image issues, the Zimbabwe Tourism Authority (ZTA), has said.
ZTA acting chief executive officer, Mr Givemore Chidzidzi, said urgent stakeholder interventions were needed to positively market the country and lure increased arrivals.
“What is more disheartening at this point in time is our performance for 2019. Our statistics went down to 2,29 million last year from 2,57 million in 2018,” he told stakeholders during a recent tourism indaba in Bulawayo.
“We were hoping that the last quarter of 2019 would change fortunes for us but alas we still went down in the fourth quarter and our tourism generally declined in terms of these arrivals. But arrivals also translate into receipts as well.
“The year 2019 has been a difficult year in the tourism industry mainly because of the destination image issues.”
Mr Chidzidzi said in 2017, Zimbabwe’s tourist arrivals stood at 2,4 million and the year that followed the statistics continued on a positive growth trajectory before going down last year.
“Talking to people that are more analytical in terms of statistics either there was something rather unusual that happened in 2018 that caused this jump.
“So, we are still finalising our factors that caused this jump. But we all know that we had a lot of goodwill and a lot of interest internationally when the Second Republic came in.
“What we need to do is to address this gap that came out. Our pre-occupation as players in the tourism sector or as the Zimbabwe Tourism Authority is now to arrest that decline (the 11 percent decline that we got in 2019),” he said.
Mr Chidzidzi said hotel occupancy last year also went down due to the destination image issues as well as the prevailing economic challenges.
“If you look at Bulawayo for example, one thing that is interesting is the issue of capacity, here (Bulawayo) we are talking of 785 hotel rooms but what is very interesting about Bulawayo is if these 785 rooms are hotel rooms, we have more capacity outside hotel rooms here in the city.
“We have got lodges and other alternative accommodation. But still the number does not match with MICE (Meeting, Incentives, Conferences and Events) that we have in Bulawayo and we have that problem (accommodation challenge) we always talked about it when it’s the trade fair.”
He said in the tourism marketing and growth strategy for this year, ZTA was trying at national level to address the issue of the marketing mix where we have 94 percent occupancy rate being local and six percent foreign.
“The decline in the occupancy level was as a result of the harsh economic climate, which has also resulted in increases in prices, the locals cannot afford to travel and we have noticed that domestic tourism is depressed.
“The tourism sector is presently not spared from the macro-economic challenges relating to cash shortage, energy and power constraints.
“All these challenges need to be addressed, they are not in our hands hence we have got our partners and stakeholders whom we think will address some of these challenges,” Mr Chidzidzi said. — @okazunga