Zvikomborero Parafini, H-Metro Reporter
The tourism sector was hit hard by Covid-19 significantly affecting the recovery path which the sector was on, the Ministry’s Permanent Secretary has said.
Permanent Secretary in the Ministry of Environment, Climate Change, Tourism and Hospitality Munesu Munodawafa said this before the Parliamentary Portfolio Committee on Environment yesterday where he was giving oral evidence on the effects of Covid-19 on the sector.
Munodawafa told the committee that the sector was significantly affected by Covid-19.
“Tourism is a key pillar of the economy, and is anchored on natural resources. We have a rich cultural heritage and diverse scenery, over the last couple of years our tourism sector has been improving and we had begun getting numerous positive endorsements from organisations like CNN Travel, National Geographic, Fortune Magazine, just before the Covid-19 lockdown, ABC channel was broadcasting from the Victoria Falls.
“Globally in 2019, tourism grew by 4 percent, and Zimbabwe tourism arrivals increased from 1,7 million in 2012 to a highest figure of 2,56 million in 2018, in 2019 the figure was slightly lower but we generally experienced growth, come 2020, we were then hit by Covid-19,” said Munodawafa.
Just like any other sector, the tourism industry was hit hard by the pandemic because tourists couldn’t come in due to the travel restrictions across their world where the sector’s source markets are.
“The impacts of Covid-19 on the sector, even before the lockdown in March, the tourism sector had already started feeling the effects of Covid-19, because we are aware it started around January in China, which is one our source markets, it then spread to Europe and other countries which are our source markets.
“We started seeing a decline and we witnessed a massive cancellation of bookings, as on March 31, the sector reported that over 10 000 room nights had been cancelled since January 2020 and it translated to a loss of over US$1,5 million only between the months of February and March, we are talking of the major hotels that had already received bookings and in some cases where payments had been made.
“So when you add the other smaller hotels and lodges, and when you had business that should have come through meetings, numbers should go even bigger of the revenues lost,” he explained.
The National Parks, which are the home of the wildlife, were not spared and were closed during the lockdown.
“The closure of the national parks meant that safari operations were closed, what we witnessed was that there was no revenue coming to Zim Parks which is the authority in charge.
“We also witnessed attempts for increased poaching because it was quiet, there were no tourists, we witnessed several attempts in our national parks and we were therefore compelled to increase our operations incurring additional costs to patrol, when in fact, we were not raising any revenue.
“The hotel restaurants were closed, car rental services equally took a knock, safari operations were closed, what it also translated to, is the fact that the Zimbabwe Tourism Authority, which survives on the two present levy it gets from operations, was hit very hard financially,” he said.