THE Tourism Business Council of Zimbabwe (TBCZ) says increased domestic and regional co-operation is required to ensure recovery of the tourism and travel sector, which has been severely crippled by Covid-19.
The sector was the first in Zimbabwe to feel the effects of the novel Covid-19 crisis, as numbers of foreign arrivals dropped significantly well before the country’s lockdown at the end of March. This resulted in the drastic slowdown of and quick halt to travel from historic source markets, most of which were already in the grip of the crisis.
In the latest update TBCZ president, Ms Winnie Muchanyuka, said the Covid-19 crisis has created an unprecedented burden on the travel and tourism sector, resulting in total shutdown of almost all activity. This has prompted Government to respond by announcing a $500 million rescue package for the sector, which industry players hope would help stabilise their businesses.
“A recovery programme is essential and urgently needed, based on effective and wide-ranging scenario planning and action planning. It is our belief that the kick-start for operation should be domestic tourism, and it is clear that operators’ primary focus will be in this direction,” she said.
“The TBCZ also recommends a plan of action to create a travel bubble within the Southern African community of nations, allowing for regional travel between what may be described as low-impact countries in terms of the spread of Covid-19.”
While experts say international tourism will depend on the revival of international travel and tourism, Zimbabwe is already seized with exploring domestic tourism option, which requires aggressive marketing and realignment of the service cost structure. The country is also keen to be at the forefront of seizing opportunities that stem from an opening of regional and global travel.
As all local, regional and international pre-emptive and control action taken to stop the spread of Covid-19 must be seen as driven by a necessary desire to end the crisis, Ms Muchanyuka said action to restore open trading conditions should be taken soon, whether in stages or in whole.
She said TBCZ was engaged in discussions with the parent Ministry of Environment, Climate, Tourism and Hospitality and the Zimbabwe Tourism Authority, recommending timely action without losing sight of the underlying need to safeguard the country and its population. She said her organisation was also following closely efforts and actions in neighbouring countries, and across the world, to restore travel and tourism to operational conditions, as the country cannot restore the sector’s operations in isolation.
“The highest levels of collaboration and co-operation between all areas of endeavour within the travel and tourism sector will be required, not only within the country but also with partners outside our borders,” said Ms Muchanyuka.
“The TBCZ is fully aware of the exceptional level of crisis facing travel and tourism, and it is our hope that within the framework of health re-establishment, the means to restore operation can be provided as speedily and positively as possible.”
She hoped that the benefits from an operational sector would be felt across the whole economy in terms of income for the significant number of people and communities whose livelihoods and whose dependents rely on this sector, directly and indirectly, for survival.
Ms Muchanyuka said her association was ready to partner and play an active role in moving the sector forward in the national interest.
“The future may or may not be a return to the ‘normal’ we knew before and there may be a ‘new normal’, which we must identify and create, but in any event the ingenuity, resourcefulness, innovation, team spirit and dedication of travel and tourism operators and administrator will be the foundation of that future,” she said.