from DANIEL JONES in Victoria Falls, Zimbabwe
VICTORIA FALLS – THE Zimbabwe tourism and hospitality sector anticipates an increase in travel to the country after the government relaxed the restrictions imposed to curb the spread of the coronavirus (COVID-19).
The relaxation of the Level 2 lockdown restrictions eases the periods of uncertainty stemming from travel embargoes since the advent of the pandemic in early 2020.
Acting President, Costantino Chiwenga, who is also the Minister of Health, recently announced the relaxation on restrictions.
Anald Musonza, the Hospitality Association of Zimbabwe (HAZ) chairperson for Matabeleland North, said removal of mandatory quarantine for visitors had resulted in renewed interest to travel to the country.
“With the relaxation of the Statutory Instrument (SI) on travel restrictions like the ten-day quarantine, we have started seeing some positive green shoots in new inquiries into our destination,” he said.
Musonza added, “We are sure there is a demand out there and more people want to travel into our destination.”
He said the industry was grateful for the positive development that has come at the beginning of the booking season.
The first quarter is traditionally low season in the tourism industry.
As domestic tourism continued to sustain the industry, during the December holidays, locals made the majority of travelers into the Victoria Falls, Zimbabwe’s main destination.
Zimbabwe’s tourism industry was not spared the impact of the COVID-19, a virus first detected in China at the end 2019.
It spread worldwide, forcing travel restrictions and lockdowns which led to a 73 percent decline in tourism globally.
Locally, Victoria Falls, whose economy was solely dependent on tourism and hospitality, was worst impacted.
The lifting of mandatory quarantine by government follows the World Health Organisation (WHO) recently saying restrictions on travel are not effective in suppressing the international spread of COVID-19.
This reiterated the United Nations World Tourism Organisation (UNWTO)’s warning against use of blanket restrictions.
“When it comes to stopping the spread of the new virus variants, blanket travel restrictions are simply counterproductive,” UNWTO secretary-general Zurab Pololikashvili was quoted as saying.
“In fact by cutting the lifeline of tourism, these restrictions do more harm than good, especially in destinations reliant on international tourists for job, economic wellbeing and sustainable change.”
UNWTO reports that tourism is recovering, growing by 4 percent in 2021 with revenue rising to about US$1,9 trillion.
Global tourism experienced a 4 percent upturn in 2021, rising to 415 million arrivals up from 400 million the previous year.
Before the pandemic, global tourism revenue was US$3,5 trillion.
In Zimbabwe, the industry contributed more than 10 percent to the gross domestic product (GDP).
Zimbabwe has lately been recording significant declines in new COVID-19 cases.
The relaxed lockdown allowed businesses to resume work from offices.
The curfew is between midnight and 05h30.
Restaurants and hotels offering catering services as well as bars operate from 08h00 to 22h00.
Sit-ins are only for fully-vaccinated people.
Quarantine has been lifted for vaccinated locals, returning residents and visitors but a valid Covid-19 PCR test remains mandatory.
As of 1 February the country had recorded a total of 229 851 cases since the first case was detected in March 2020.
– CAJ News