from DANIEL JONES in Victoria Falls, Zimbabwe
VICTORIA FALLS – LOCAL tourists in Zimbabwe are the proverbial stone that the builders rejected but has become the cornerstone.
This as the domestic tourists emerge as the most important clients in the revival of the sector after the outbreak of the COVID-19 led to a marked reduction in the number of international visitors.
Over the years, the tourism sector apparently looked down upon domestic tourism as it survived on international travelers. There was a belief that domestic clients did not spend as much as international clients would.
Trends have changed since the outbreak of the pandemic in Zimbabwe in March 2020.
It is reported more than 90 percent of tourists that visited Victoria Falls during the just-ended festive season were locals.
It perhaps is time for Zimbabwean hotels to lower their rates and make them more affordable for locals.
Hotels mostly in the Victoria Falls charge rates that stakeholders believe are exorbitant, as they target international tourists, whose arrivals have declined since the pandemic.
Because of exorbitant prices for accommodation and activities, locals forego some activities which had generally become a preserve for foreign tourists.
Most hotels in Victoria Falls target high-end clients.
“The domestic market surprised the tourism industry (during the festive season). They (locals) filled hotels and bought food the same way foreign tourists would,” said Clement Mukwasi, Employers Association for Tourism and Safari Operators (EATSO) founding president.
“It is a market that we are going to focus on, and look at our pricing system. I think the industry needs to rationalize the pricing model so that accommodation, activities and other services become affordable to locals.”
Government has previously urged tourism players to come up with packages that favour locals.
Ngqabutho Moyo, the Victoria Falls Marketing and Investment Officer, said the pandemic had taught the resort city to spread its opportunities and capture the local market.
“We are a town that had put all eggs in one tourism basket backed by international travelers. In the absence of these, we need to diversify and also come up with rates and packages that encourage locals to travel,” Moyo said.
Others such as the recently-opened Palm River Hotel started with special rates to suit local market.
The hotel opened on December 1 last year.
“We started with an opening special of US$189 per person per night for bed and breakfast as we want to capture the local market too,” General Manager, Martijn van Leent, said.
Travel and tourism contributed 4,1 percent to Zimbabwe’s gross domestic product (GDP) in 2020, which represented over US$620 million (about R9.4 billion).
This was a significant drop from 6,5 percent in 2019.
– CAJ News