As the world gradually adjusts to the reality of the Coronavirus pandemic, many nations are already making plans for economic survival in a post-COVID-19 world.
One industry which has felt the blows of the pandemic is tourism, a major source of revenue for many nations. With countries enforcing lockdowns to help curtail the spread of the virus, tourism went comatose, as everyone stayed at home.
However, many countries are already thinking post-COVID-19, and plans to boost the tourism industry as soon as restrictions of movement, especially air travel is lifted.
The tourism industry in Zimbabwe is busy devising a post-COVID-19 tourism recovery strategy with domestic travel and product diversification a priority.
At a meeting held this week, Environment, Climate, Tourism and Hospitality Industry Minister Nqobizitha Mangaliso Ndholvu spoke in detail about a three-phased approach, which starts by growing domestic tourism, the regional and then the international market.
“We are expecting that international tourism will take some time to recover. We are looking at domestic tourism as an immediate source of relief, and I think over time we have really not given it attention and it took centre stage today,” he said. Ndholvu said they looked at critical issues that were hindering the growth of domestic tourism.
“We tackled issues to do with providing support structures. The sector highlighted that there are other enablers and there are other players who are providing services to the sector whose rates are quite high. They made mention of local authorities, electricity rates and the like.
“This mandates us to have a broader discussion to see how best we can collaborate to drive down the cost so that our locals can begin to travel. Beyond that, we are seeing regional tourism coming back. We remain alert, but we’re not going to be complacent. We believe that we have reasonable numbers. It might not take long before the regional tourism roars into life, so we are getting ready for that as well” added Ndhlovu.
He said their medium to long term plans included opening airports for the international market.
“In the discussion, we were quite clear that we don’t want to restore tourism as it was. We want the best-case scenario as we believe Zimbabwe is a very beautiful country. We have not been getting the best out of our tourism, so we have taken this opportunity to look at other areas where we can do better. We also have to be unlocking other domestic destinations, which are currently inaccessible either through air or road” he said.
The meeting also delved into the need for various interventions, including timely disbursement of the $500-million stimulus package by government and wider collaborations among the industry rather than competing against each other.
The issue of pricing of tourism products was also discussed externally with most players agreeing that domestic tourism was the starting point to give impetus and lure international travellers.
Sector players agreed that for domestic tourism to thrive, the national airline to needed to become operational. While the pandemic hampered operations of the national airline it also provided an opportunity for Air Zimbabwe to revive its fleet which is set to service the domestic routes.