Ishemunyoro Chingwere Business Reporter
The Hospitality Association of Zimbabwe (HAZ) is seeking Government and stakeholder buy-in in an effort to lower high destination rates obtaining in the industry compared to regional rates. HAZ will from November 22 to 24, hold its congress in Nyanga amid concern from the sector that tourism receipts have failed to register growth as has been the case with tourists’ arrivals that have been steadily increasing since 2013.
Statistics from the Zimbabwe Tourism Authority, show a steady rise in arrivals from 1 832 570 in 2013 to 2 167 686 in 2016 and all indications are that there will be further growth this year. However, this rise has not been corresponding on receipts which stood at $856 million in 2013 but fell to $819 million in 2016. According to HAZ, current occupancy for city hotels is 65 percent, resorts are seating at 55 percent, while the country’s major tourist destination, Victoria Falls, has increased its occupancy by 14 percent in the first nine months of the year compared to the same period last year. HAZ president Mr George Manyumwa, said improving Zimbabwe’s competitiveness as a destination is key to improving the static receipts.
“One of the major issues that we are now pushing is to facilitate discussion on key policy issues which impact on the sector as well as regional cost comparison study to ascertain the competitiveness of Zimbabwe’s tourism business,” said Mr Manyumwa.
“There is a question that has always lingered, to say, are we as a tourist destination, competitive compared to other destinations? There is the issue of the US dollar that we are using here which is too powerful for other regional currencies. Then when you look at our costs here, there are much higher because of issues like labour costs compared to other countries. Utilities, we are also paying much more than our regional peers, so when we then come up with prices for our products, they can’t compete regionally,” he said. Mr Manyumwa said the decision to take the congress to Nyanga, whose current hotel occupancy rate is 40 percent, was also a calculated move to unlock the potential it has as a destination.
“Nyanga has the potential to increase occupancy, but as an industry, we want to market Nyanga even further and that is why this year we have decided to do our annual congress there so that we expose the destination all industry stakeholders,” he said. Debate will also dwell on digital marketing, the easy of doing business, which is being promoted by Government, as well as the impact of import management on tourism business, where the sector is seeking waivers on some goods that are being restricted under SI 64 for the country to remain tourist attractive. In an interview with this publication last year, ZTA chief executive officer Mr Karikoga Kaseke, said he was at one time surprised to be charged $53 all-inclusive at a five-star hotel when he visited a certain country. Locally, a night in a five star hotel cost between $100 and $200.