Tourism Industry To Reopen, Is Lockdown Coming To An End?
9 June 2020
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State Media

Minister Mangaliso Ndlovu

GOVERNMENT is set to reopen the tourism industry particularly for the domestic market, a development that will see the launch of the tourism recovery strategy next week.

The tourism industry is one of the sectors that were hard hit by Covid-19 resulting in tour operators and hotels closing indefinitely due to lack of business.

Government is engaging various stakeholders with a view to capacitate domestic tourism which over the years was underrated in favour of international travel.

Locals have been restricted from visiting tourism resorts by the cost factor but Government is working on addressing the pricing structure as part of the re-opening strategy.

Government has already developed guidelines to reopen the tourism sector ahead of the launch of the tourism recovery strategy next week.

A Government delegation led by Environment, Climate, Tourism and Hospitality Industry Minister Nqobizitha Mangaliso Ndlovu and Local Government and Public Works Minister July Moyo visited the resort town yesterday to meet industry players and the local authorities to discuss modalities to open the sector for local visitors.

In an interview after the meeting, Minister Ndlovu said post Covid-19, domestic tourism will sustain the sector before international travel can be revived.

“We are here for a number of reasons the main one being that we are looking at the tourism town of Victoria Falls and a number of issues as we are contemplating that sooner than later, the possibility of opening up particularly for domestic tourism. We have developed guidelines to reopen. As you may know some hotels have started opening in Harare but we needed to have very strict guidelines because they are dealing with the public so we don’t want to be conduits for spreading Covid-19,” said Minister Ndlovu.

He said tourism industry players had also come up with their own guidelines which are more stringent and have been certified by the Ministry of Health and Child Care for approval as a way of ensuring safety from Covid-19.

He said Government is engaging local authorities and other stakeholders to identify areas for synergies.

Victoria Falls Municipality and Hwange Rural District Council are the two local authorities directly involved in tourism in Victoria Falls.

Minister Ndlovu said Victoria Falls residents and villagers from nearby communities will soon enjoy free entry into the Rainforest.

This follows concerns by locals who have been failing to access the Falls.

Victoria Falls Councillor Edmore Zhou raised the issue.

Minister Ndlovu said: “This meeting is meant to find critical areas of concern and one of the issues is accessibility to national parks and costing issues. We have a package for locals where we will designate a day for local residents to visit the Falls free of entry. So, we want councillors to help us disseminate the information.”

He said there are no timelines for the plans.

The Minister said the sector should avoid fueling the spread of the coronavirus.

Victoria Falls has been tagged as more expensive compared to other destinations and industry players have defended that saying they are guided by operational costs.

Minister Ndlovu said Government will be addressing issues of competitiveness, adding there will be a differentiated pricing system where locals will have a generally lower tariff compared to international tourists.

“It will now be a question of looking at whether the charge will still be beyond the reach of many. We need many visitors for more ambassadors,” said Minister Ndlovu.

He said Government is planning on running numerous campaigns and promotions to market the country’s tourism.

Across the Zambezi River in Livingstone, Zambia recently opened its tourism industry.

Minister Ndlovu said Government is not under pressure as it wants to make sure people are not put at risk.

He said Government will next week launch the tourism recovery strategy which emphasises the need to integrate the pricing structures from both State institutions and private players.

Speaking about tourism, local Government Minister Moyo said the resort town is the face of the country and its number one source of revenue when it comes to tourism.

“The Victoria Falls council is an important instrument for making sure that there is development of the hospitality industry. And the council has been going through disturbances in the past few months which is one of the reasons for me coming here to make sure that the council has cohesion and the councillors are working as a team together with their staff,” he said.

“They need to understand the thrust of tourism and the Ministry of Environment which also controls the national parks. So, we decided to have a joint meeting. Also I was urging them that for the sake of popularity of this place we need peace for tourists to come.”