Covid-19 effect hits Vic-Falls tourism bookings

Leonard Ncube, Victoria Falls Reporter

THE tourism industry in has recorded cancellations of bookings and trips by international travellers following the outbreak of Covid-19 (Coronavirus) that continues to spread worldwide.

The United Nations World Tourism Organisation (UNWTO) recently projected that the global tourism industry may suffer losses of up to US$50 billion due to the outbreak of the deadly pandemic.

Covid-19 first broke out in China’s Wuhan City last December and has since spread to other countries, infecting more than 900 000 people and killing more than 3 000, mainly in China. Some African countries have confirmed cases of the virus with South Africa recording seven. Tourism players in the country’s prime resort town are concerned that the outbreak could leave the industry grounded.

Some hotels and operators are reportedly sending workers on forced leave due to lost business. The industry is, however, concerned about what is says is sensationalisation of the situation by the media and have appealed for responsible reporting while also urging citizens to desist from circulating fake news, which negatively affects the fragile industry.

The concerns come after some messages circulated on WhatsApp platforms on Monday claiming that a Chinese woman had been quarantined after showing symptoms of the infection while checking in at a local hotel. Tourism authorities and health experts yesterday said the tourist was actually a British national who only suffered moderate fever and tested negative to Covid-19.

Victoria Falls

Hospitality Industry Association of Zimbabwe (HAZ) Victoria Falls chapter chairman Mr Arnold Musonza said:

“There is not much movement in terms of supplies, which we get from far afield like China and it’s worrying to us as an industry because we have even had cancellations with a lot of clients asking for cancelations or postponement of their trips. 

“We have tried to remain calm so that we don’t sensationalise the situation and we will always conscientise staff and clients to be careful. Our plea is for people to rely on official information and not follow untruths that are circulated on social media. “The media should also not sensationalise because jobs will be lost in tourism. We need more of reassurance from our media because the industry might collapse with this sensational reporting,” said Mr Musonza.

He could not be drawn into giving statistics but industry representatives said almost all hotels and tour operators have recorded some cancelations. HAZ has organized a stakeholders meeting to be held on Friday to talk about the state of the industry in light of the Coronavirus.

Matabeleland North Provincial Medical Director, Dr Purgie Tawanda Chimberengwa, also dismissed as untrue claims that a Chinese woman had shown symptoms of the virus. He said the woman was actually from Windsor in Britain where there is no outbreak and had been cleared as she continued with her tour around the region.

The woman only had fever and was given antibiotics, which she responded positively to before being cleared, highlighted Dr Chimberengwa.

“It doesn’t necessarily mean that when a person comes from a country that has Coronavirus then the person is infected. We concluded that she had ordinary pneumonia and as we stand, we don’t even suspect that it was Coronavirus. 

“Our primary problem is the Press, which is panicking about Coronavirus and sending wrong information to the people. The Press should be educating people like what the Ministry of Health and Child Care is doing these days giving daily updates. What we want to reiterate, however, is that people should practice basic hygiene, wash their hands and eat warm food to protect themselves from the virus,” said Dr Chimberengwa.

He urged people not to cause unnecessary panic and to check messages before forwarding them saying unnecessary panic tends to strain the already stressed health system. — @ncubeleon.

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