Tourism sector pins hopes on vaccines Mr Clement Mukwasi

Leonard Ncube, Victoria Falls Reporter
PLAYERS in the tourism industry are pinning hopes for business recovery on the effective rollout of Covid-19 vaccines, which they say should boost confidence for people to start travelling again.

Next month marks exactly one year since most tourism players including hoteliers and tour operators last had meaningful bookings owing to the outbreak of the pandemic that has infected more than 106 million and killed more than two million globally.

When Zimbabwe introduced the first lockdown in March last year, the tourism industry was already hard hit by cancellations and many players have not received any bookings since then.

While the Government reopened the industry last year, operators only got sizeable bookings during the Christmas Holidays and have been grounded to date. Workers are still out of work, many of them with no salary as employers’ revenue took a knock.

Naturally, March marks the start of the peak period when international travellers from across the globe begin to flood Southern Africa. However, the industry enters the season while on its knees.

Normal peak runs between April and October while the green season starts in November ending in March and is normally low season.

This excludes the festive season between 20 and 25 December and Easter Holiday where the number of holiday makers also rises.

Hospitality Association of Zimbabwe (HAZ) Victoria Falls chapter chair Mr Anald Musonza said the industry expects vaccine rollout to boost confidence.

“People will start travelling again once vaccine rollout starts so they have confidence. There is a lot of demand by people to get out of the lockdown mode and explore nature-based destinations like Victoria Falls,” he said.

“While March could be too early to expect an increase in occupancies, we expect great recovery once there is a vaccine.”

Victoria Falls offers lots of open spaces and nest retreat for holiday lovers hence it is a destination of choice for many countries. While South Africa is the hub of tourism in South Africa, Victoria Falls and Hwange in Zimbabwe are some of the destinations that no international tourist would want to miss.

Employers Association for the Tourism and Safari Operators president Mr Clement Mukwasi said the industry has been grounded despite being open as there are no clients.

He said there will be no tourism to talk about in future as long there is no vaccine as travellers want assurance on management of infection.

“We have come to the end of the 1st quarter, which we are ending in a sorry state due to Covid-19. Naturally, it leads us to Easter Holidays and is supposed to be the beginning of peak period both for domestic and international clients but with borders closed for international source market and intercity travelling restricted for locals, companies will remain with no clients,” said Mr Mukwasi.

“If no vaccine is rolled out there will be no business for the industry. As an industry we are, however, ready to reignite and we are hopeful that the rollout of Covid-19 vaccine will lead to a bubble in Southern Africa.

“We also hope whatever vaccine that will be introduced will work on the new variant of coronavirus.”

The recent spike in new infections across the region has seen some airlines suspending flights while those still operating are not bringing any tourists.

A tourism travel agent, Ms Thandiwe Mafa Moyo said international clients were beginning to make inquiries but are cautious about travelling before rollout of vaccines. — @ncubeleon.

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