The easing of coronavirus related lockdowns and a robust vaccination programme by Government, has boosted Zimbabwe’s tourism prospects with inward booking numbers “now looking very good,” the Safari Operators of Zimbabwe (SOAZ) said.
The ban on travel and public conferences significantly suffocated the global tourism industry and in 2020, international arrivals plunged by 73 percent from pre-pandemic levels in 2019, causing estimated losses of US$2,4 trillion in tourism and related sectors, according to the report by the UN’s World Tourism Organisation.
“We are seeing a lot of green shots especially from the Arab community, which is keen in terms of adventuring some of our tourist destinations such as Victoria Falls, Matetsi and Malilangwe,” said Dr Emmanuel Fundira, the chairman of SOAZ.
“Our vaccination coverage as percentage to the total population is good and this is key in restoring confidence in foreign tourists…the prospects are looking very bright,” he added.
As of 4th of October, 2021, a total of 3 117 895 people had received their first dose of the Covid-19 vaccine and 2 322 862 their second across the country. This translates to a national coverage of 36,6 percent for the first dose and 27,2 percent for the second.
About 943 200 doses of Sinopharm vaccine were received under the COVAX facility and this brings the total number of vaccine doses received since roll-out of the vaccination programme to 13 243 200. Victoria Falls, the country’s prime tourist destination has already achieved the herd immunity and the Government thrust is to fully vaccinate all border points including tourism hubs across the country.
Dr Fundira, however, appealed to the Government to consider providing grants from the Special Drawing Rights to the tourism players to help kick start the sector.
“We appeal to the Government to make available grants to mitigate the effects of Covid 19,” said Dr Fundira, adding that tourism “is not an industry in which one could flip a switch to the ‘on’ position.
“It needs a long ‘run-up ‘support until it starts turning over revenue,” said Dr Fundira. While others sectors such as agriculture, mining and manufacturing were allowed to operate during lockdown periods, it was a different case for the tourism sector due to the ban on travel.