INVESTMENTS into the country’s tourism sector grew by 65 percent to clock US$142 million by end of 2021 despite the adverse impact of the Covid-19 pandemic, according to a latest Cabinet report.
The tourism industry has been adversely affected by the deadly pandemic since 2020 due to lockdown restrictions, red listing and travel bans.
These have resulted in loss of about 9 000 jobs in the sector as well as closure of 37 facilities.
Notwithstanding this setback, notable progress and developments have been recorded to date as the country is focused on rejuvenating tourism business activity in line with the National Tourism Recovery and Growth Strategy, which was launched by President Mnangagwa in August 2020.
In her post-Cabinet media briefing, Information, Publicity and Broadcasting Services Minister Monica Mutsvangwa said the strategy, whose implementation is in full swing, was geared to growing the tourism economy to US$5 billion by 2025.
“Tourism investments increased from US$86 million in 2020 to US$142 million in 2021. Some notable investments being Palm River Hotel, Zambezi Boutique Guesthouse, and Nkosi Guest Lodge (Victoria Falls), Makhado in Beitbridge; and the Beethoven Hotel in Harare.
Hot Plate Grill restaurants were opened throughout the country,” said the minister.
“A new 3 000-seater conferencing facility is under construction in Mutoko, while another 250-seater has been constructed at Village Hotel in Gweru.”
A total of US$133,2 million was invested in Public-Private Partnership tourism-related construction projects while Old Bulawayo is being reconstructed.
Minister Mutsvangwa said the report, which was tabled by Environment, Climate, Tourism and Hospitality Industry Minister Mangaliso Ndlovu, also indicated that major tourism infrastructure renovations and refurbishments were carried out at the Victoria Falls Rainbow, the Cresta Group of Hotels, and the Victoria Falls Hotel.
“The Zimbabwe Parks and Wildlife Management Authority (Zimparks) is refurbishing its lodges in Nyanga, Vumba, and Chimanimani National Parks,” she said.
“Zimparks also launched new tourism products to diversify attractions in the national parks and these include Sikato Lion Encounter in Masvingo province; the Chinhoyi Lion Encounter in Mashonaland West Province; and the Tshabalala Lion Encounter and Entertainment area in Matabeleland South province.”
The sector has also embarked on an aggressive domestic tourism marketing drive following the launch of the ZimBho campaign in 2020, which has helped improve domestic travel.
This has seen an increase in domestic entries into National Parks to 251 088 in 2021 compared to 173 714 in 2020, said the minister.
The positive recovery is being enhanced by improved accessibility of the tourism products and destination route connectivity in terms of domestic and international transportation.
For instance, Qatar Airways commenced flights to Zimbabwe last August, 2021 while MACK Air of Botswana started servicing the Kasane-Victoria Falls route on 1 May, 2021.
Low-cost airline, FastJet has scheduled flights that connect Victoria Falls to Kruger National Park through Mpumalanga that were introduced this month.
Falcon Air Safaris, a subsidiary of the District Development Fund, is now servicing Hwange Airport while efforts to refurbish the Chapoto (in Kanyemba) and Binga Aerodromes to support geographical spread of tourism are underway.
Zimbabwe expects to receive Luftansa’s Eurowings, which will service the Frankfurt-Windhoek-Victoria Falls route commencing on 30 March. On one hand Kariba Airport is also being refurbished by the Civil Aviation Authority of Zimbabwe.
“These services are in addition to those already being offered by Ethiopian Airlines, Kenya Airways, South African AirLink, Rwandair, Air Tanzania and Emirates,” said Mutsvangwa.
Meanwhile, the tourism sector is scaling up its destination marketing efforts through programmes such as the “Visit Zimbabwe” drive in partnership with the Ministry of Youth, Sport, Arts and Recreation to use Cricket as a vehicle to promote destination Zimbabwe and the “Meet in Zimbabwe” campaign.
The country’s tourism digital marketing campaign has also been rated by the on-going Dubai Expo 2020 as one of the top eight out of the 109 exhibiting countries.
Government has further partnered with tourism players in the Kavango-Zambezi Transfrontier Conservation Area (KAZA) to promote regional tourism through the highly successful Africa’s Eden Travel and Trade Show, which was held on 7-10 February, 2022.
The show was attended by 70 international buyers from 23 countries, and 113 exhibitors from the KAZA region.
To stimulate quick recovery, the Government has also come up with key incentives such as the waiver of Value Added tax on domestic tourism and duty exemption facility.
These are meant to help improve access to tourism products and services by the domestic market through extended price reductions.
Moreover, tourism sector players are now allowed to retain 100 percent of their foreign earnings while the Tourism Satellite Account, which is a statistical tool for the measurement of tourism’s contribution to the Gross Domestic Product, trade and employment in the economy, is now operational.