Midlands Bureau Chief
SINCE the beginning of the year, the global tourism industry has continued to exhibit signs of solid and consistent recuperation from the adverse consequences of the Covid-19 pandemic.
Trends for Zimbabwe have also shown recovery following the bouncing back of worldwide inbound travel and the general growth in domestic tourism.
The first nine months of 2022 saw a 165 percent rise in tourist arrivals to 693 498 from 261 415 in 2021.
This is more than double the international arrivals received in the first nine months of 2021 which was 164 062.
The average occupancies for the first nine months of 2022 also had a significant growth of 21 percentage points from 21 percent in 2021 to 42 percent in 2022.
Overall, this performance was reinforced by domestic tourism which has remained dominant, contributing 95 percent of tourism business in 2022.
The tourism and hospitality industry is benefiting from the huge appetite for spending by locals who have been visiting Victoria Falls and other destinations during holidays such as the Christmas holiday.
Mr Anald Musonza of the Hospitality Association of Zimbabwe Victoria Falls Chapter said the first season for the year 2022 has seen the revival of tourism.
“We must also be grateful that domestic tourism has grown together with regional and international markets coming back, our festive season has been very busy,” he said.
Mr Clement Mukwasi of Shearwater Adventures said for the first time in three years lodges and hotels have recorded brisk business from tourists who included locals.
“There is an increase in local tourism. Our people are no longer afraid of spending on accommodation in hotels, lodges and activities. Domestic tourism is actually dominating as a lot of people visit resorts with families and friends,” he said.
Making a strong comeback after three years due to the Covid-19 pandemic, the tourism sector is optimistic about further growth as it targets a US$5 billion economy by the year 2025.
The Minister of Environment, Climate, Tourism and Hospitality Industry, Mangaliso Ndlovu said like any other country in the world, Zimbabwe is traversing through recovery from the effects of the Covid-19 pandemic and the on-going conflict in Ukraine which has affected global economies, travel and trade.
He said given this current economic situation, the tourism sector is implementing the National Tourism Recovery and Growth Strategy which is driving the growth of tourism in the country mainly through campaigns to accelerate meetings, conferences and exhibitions (MICE) and domestic tourism.
“The ZimBho, MeetInZim and InvestInZim campaigns have stimulated domestic and business tourism as well as investments for the recovery and growth of the sector. These campaigns have contributed to tourism growth doubling for January to September 2022 as alluded to earlier. Investments of US$$306.7 million from US$90.4 million were recorded during the same period mostly in accommodation and vehicle hire,” he said.
The Government, Minister Ndlovu said, has put in a number of incentives to help the tourism sector and these include duty rebates.
“We have SI 50 of 2006 – rebate on duty of capital equipment for use in the Tourism Development Zones, SI 10 of 2022 rebate on duty for safari vehicles and tour buses, SI 279 of 2019 capital goods – rebate of duty in respect of— (a) new capital equipment for— (i) expansion; and (ii) modernization; and (iii) renovation of hotels and restaurants within hotels; (b) boat equipment and other goods imported or taken out of bond; for the exclusive use in the tourism business by tourism operators. Tax breaks in the Tourism Development Zones and Tax exemption for investment in the Victoria Falls Tourism Special Economic Zone,” he said.
The Government in 2018 launched the National Tourism Master Plan which is an overarching guide to the development of tourism in Zimbabwe.
The master plan identified potential tourism nuggets to grow new attractions in Zimbabwe.
The plan identified 11 Tourism Development Zones in Harare, Eastern Highlands, Chimanimani, Gonarezhou, Limpopo, Great Zimbabwe, Midlands, Bulawayo, Victoria Falls, Kariba and Mavhuradona.
Minister Ndlovu said accessibility is the backbone of the growth of tourism destinations and air accessibility contributes significantly to the growth of regional and international tourist arrival to any destination.
“Air Zimbabwe, therefore, plays a critical role in providing direct access to Zimbabwe from key source markets and an instrumental role in national identity. The airline connects the capital city, Harare, with local destinations such as Victoria Falls. To strengthen the role of Air Zimbabwe in connecting travellers, the Government has allowed private sector
players such as Fastjet and Kuva Air to fly from Harare to Bulawayo, Victoria Falls and Kariba,” he said.
Minister Ndlovu said the huge airport expansion as seen with the expansion of the Victoria Falls International Airport will attract new aircraft and airlines.
He said the expansion of the Victoria Falls International Airport saw airlines such as Ethiopian Airlines, Air Botswana, Fastjet, Airlink, Kenya Airways increasing flight frequencies to the resort town because of the expanded airport capacity.
“The expansion also attracted new airlines such as Eurowings from Germany and Mack Air from Botswana. This also increased the airport’s passenger handling capacity from 500 000 a year to about 1.5 million. Expansion of the airport will also enhance traveller experience and offer a greater choice of airlines with the introduction of new flights as well as airlines.
“The huge expansion will, therefore, increase regional and international tourist arrivals into the country, tourism receipts and the sector’s contribution to Gross Domestic Product as well as attainment of the US$5 billion tourism sector by 2025,” said the Minister.
The tourism sector is guided by the National Development Strategy (NDS) 1 2021 to 2025 and The National Tourism Recovery and Growth Strategy. NDS1 agitates for the growth of the Tourism Sector through increased investment in diversified tourism products while the National Tourism Recovery and Growth Strategy seeks to grow the tourism economy to US$5 billion by 2025.
Over and above the synergies, the Ministry is establishing a market presence in the country’s key tourism source markets. Two tourism attachés were deployed in August and September 2022 to China and the United Arab Emirates.
An additional nine Tourism Attachés were recently appointed and are expected to be deployed in the first quarter of 2023 to Germany, France, the United Kingdom, the United States of America, India, South Africa, China and Japan. Physical presence in key source markets and the joint synergies with the private sector will aid Government in promoting the destination internationally, attracting more tourists to the country.