by WELLINGTON TONI
HARARE, (CAJ News) – INDUSTRY executives have welcomed a fund set by the Zimbabwean government to cushion the hotel and tourism industry during the lockdown against the coronavirus (COVID-19) outbreak
The government has introduced ZWL$500 million to keep the besieged industry afloat.
Mangaliso Ndlovu, the Tourism and Environment Minister, presiding over the launch in the capital, Harare, also announced a shift in government’s focus to domestic tourism.
This follows the cancellation of most international travel during the pandemic.
A ZWL20 million revolving fund has also been put in place to accelerate the recovery of the sector and address the shortage of rooms as well as attract investment in facilities such as hotels and conference centres.
Common areas of interest in Zimbabwe include Gonarezhou National Park, Great Zimbabwe, Hwange National Park, Lake Kariba, the Matopos National Park and Victoria Falls.
Players in the local industry welcomed the launch of the fund by the government of President Emmerson Mnangagwa.
“We are very appreciative of this gesture and it’s going to make us remain in business now and post- COVID-19. This will also safeguard employees who risked losing their jobs due to the closure of the industry,” said industry executive, Sikhawuliso Sibanda.
He operates the Isilwane Tours and Travel and Isilwane Nature Reserve in the second capital, Bulawayo.
Sibanda nonetheless urged government to curb bottlenecks that might undermine efforts to keep the industry afloat.
“We hope the modalities on accessing these funds will not be cumbersome as the longer it takes, the longer we face risk of extinction and threat to employees losing their jobs,” he said.
An operator from the resort town of Victoria Falls, while welcoming government’s intervention through the fund, also proposed for longer tax breaks to speedily resuscitate the industry.
“That way, we will then be able to package our offers to suit domestic tourists,” she explained.
Ngandu Chitembwe, a hospitality sector operator from the Eastern Highlands, hailed the focus on domestic tourists.
“Borders are still closed and this means more effort in enticing locals,” Chitembwe said.
He urged players in the industry to make an effort to make their products and services attractive and relevant.
“Even though we have been charging lower prices, it makes sense to improve our packaging of products and make them specific to domestic tourists,” Chitembwe said.
Governments across the world are coming up with various mitigatory ways to prevent the collapse of key industries.
Travel and tourism are a key sector in Zimbabwe.
Receipts in 2018 brought in US$1,3 billion and around $1,157 billion in 2019, a massive contribution to the country’s gross domestic product (GDP) of US$22,29 billion (2019).
It is the 20th largest in Africa.
As of Sunday, infections across the globe had topped 4 million with over 220 000 deaths. Zimbabwe has 35 positive cases and four deaths.
– CAJ News