by WELLINGTON TONI
HARARE, (CAJ News) – HAD it not been for the raging outbreak of the coronavirus (COVID-19), Mike Goba would be anticipating a windfall with the Zimbabwe International Trade Fair (ZITF) a week away.
He is one of local hoteliers counting their losses after the annual event scheduled for the second city of Bulawayo was called off as a result of the pandemic.
The hotel and tourism industry in the city has for decades benefitted from the influx of local visitors and international tourists eager to participate at the event rated the biggest trade showcase in the African continent.
In fact, it is a double whammy for the hospitality industry in the city considering the City of Kings (as Bulawayo is affectionately called) would have hosted the 40th Independence Day celebrations at Barbourfields Stadium on April 18.
The momentous event has also been called off due to the COVID-19.
“It has been a big blow on all businesses as ZITF is a great event to maximize business activity,” said Goba, one of the directors at Standard Hotel and Afrilodge.
He said shortage of accommodation during ZITF was one of the major drivers behind their venture into the hotel industry.
Previously, the business provided rental accommodation for monthly tenants.
“We decided to diversify and venture into overnight bookings to upgrade the business structure and move with the times. The shortage of accommodation during ZITF gave us added push to continue,” Goba said.
Seeing no use crying over spilt milk, Goba and other entrepreneurs have retained confidence and set their sights on other industry events under the ZITF stable, including the Mining, Engineering and Transport Expo (Mine-Entra).
One of the largest events of its kind in the Southern African region, the expo is set for July 22-24 at the ZITF Showgrounds.
It is anticipated that by then, the international community would have brought COVID-19 under control.
“Nevertheless, we remain optimistic and we will get other events like Mine Entra in the near future. We soldier on,” Goba said in an interview.
The impact of COVID-19 in the hotel industry is not only felt in Bulawayo.
Hotels in the premier resort town of Victoria Falls have recorded an 80 percent rate of cancellations so far.
The Hospitality Association of Zimbabwe (HAZ) expects this figure to peak at 90 percent by year end.
This is because of the freezing of local and international travel due to the coronavirus outbreak.
Clement Mukwasi, president of the Employers Association of the Tourism and Safari Operators (EATSO), said while a recovery is expected, the sector was wary of a global economic meltdown.
“Full recovery may really be longer and we hope that world economies will not go into recession after this pandemic,” Mukwasi said.
He projected that when COVID-19 eventually cleared, travel restrictions might take a bit of time to be removed.
“It is difficult to take a guess but a time frame between September 2020 and July 2021 is not far off the point,” Mukwasi said of the lifting of travel restrictions.
– CAJ News