Pandemic brings innovative hunger in tourism sector

26 Nov, 2021 - 00:11 0 Views
Pandemic brings innovative hunger in tourism sector Minister Ndlovu

The Herald

Tendai Rupapa-Senior Reporter

DESPITE its devastating effects, Covid-19 has presented the tourism sector with a great opportunity to become innovative and offer exceptional experience as the world adapts to and embraces the new normal, Tourism and Hospitality Industry Minister Mangaliso Ndlovu has said.

The hospitality industry, the minister emphasised, remained a critical backbone of the tourism sector and the economy through job creation towards the realisation of the National Vision, “Towards an Empowered and Prosperous Upper Middle Income Society by 2030”.

Addressing the Hospitality Association of Zimbabwe (HAZ) congress in the capital yesterday, Minister Ndlovu described the meeting as arguably one of the key signature events whose outcome will shape the future of the tourism industry in Zimbabwe. 

He said the congress came at a time when the tourism sector had begun to take bold steps to recovery.

“It is agreed that globally, the Travel and Tourism sector has been hard hit by the novel corona virus which has forced most of the industries down to their knees. Zimbabwe has not been spared. Globally, international tourist arrivals dropped by 65 percent from January to May this year. Arrivals into Africa during the same period fell by 81 percent compared to last year while arrivals into Zimbabwe during the first half of 2021 decreased by 72 percent. Faced with this scenario the industry has to be resilient and more creative to win the trust of tourists still fearful to travel and do more to deliver utmost care to health & hygiene standards, and higher levels of customer care,” he said. 

Aware of the constrained operating environment the industry had endured over the last two years, the minister said it was his wish to most sincerely commend the tourism and hospitality industry in Zimbabwe for taking a proactive stance in embracing Covid-19 vaccination, with key resorts such as Victoria Falls taking the lead in reaching herd immunity in the region.

“I am advised that the Hospitality Association of Zimbabwe has even gone further to establish a Covid-19 Task Force to handle the issues related to the management of the pandemic within the industry. This is commendable and I would like to encourage other players within the tourism sector to emulate such progressive approach to challenges. 

“From a strategic visionary point of view, Covid-19 yes, has a devastating effect. However, it has presented the sector with a great opportunity to become innovative and offer exceptional experience as we adapt to and embrace the new normal and offer exceptional experience. 

“I am happy the Hospitality Industry is ready to go as evidenced by the running theme, ‘Re-Imagining and Navigating the Tourism and Hospitality Recovery Journey’. In this regard, the industry is being challenged to remain vigilant, move away from the business as usual concept and be tactful in these difficult times if we are to achieve our common goal.” 

Minister Ndlovu said what was encouraging was that, even though there was a marked decrease in tourist arrivals, the sector had registered a noble increase in investments, particularly in hotel accommodation. 

“Numerous facilities are currently under development and a number of refurbishments of facilities are taking place during this difficult era. Our assessment, based on data from ZTA we note that during the year to date, over US$100 million has been invested in new tourism facilities with key milestone investments including the Palm River Hotel, whose construction commenced during the Covid-19 era set to be completed. I urge industry players to continue to work hard as we walk our journey towards a US$5 billion tourism economy by 2025,” he said.

The ministry, Minister Ndlovu said, remained a willing and strong partner in this journey and would continue to advocate strongly for sector-specific incentives and support mechanisms to support investments by the private sector. 

As Government, he said, they took note of the scepticism that the banking sector had shown in funding the tourism sector.

“Regardless of the current Covid-19 induced turn-down we remain optimistic that this sector as a key foreign currency generator will withstand the current challenges as you have done to date. It is therefore imperative that Government also moves in to help you mitigate the funding risks that you face by establishing the Tourism Revolving Fund. 

“This proposal as you know, has been on the cards for many years but am glad to advise you that Cabinet has since approved the setting up of this facility. Government will provide seed Capital for the setting up of this facility. 

“In addition, we are also keen for the Hospitality sector to invest in Provincial Capital hotels to complement MICE tourism and Hospitality such as Bindura in Mashonaland Central, Lupane in Matabeleland North and in Mashonaland East provinces to mention just a few in line with the National Tourism Recovery and Growth Strategy. 

“Colleagues I’m happy to say that working with the Ministry of Transport an Infrastructure Development, we have started working on the refurbishment of some of our airports and airstrips and our hope is that this will increase domestic access to some of our resort areas. I implore the private sector to complement this through provision of small aircraft among other services,” he said. 

Whilst the industry had put some strategies to manage Covid-19, Minister Ndlovu said the world was faced with yet another worrisome phenomenon, that of Climate Change. 

“As you all know, during the recently held COP 26 Conference in Glasgow, Scotland, Zimbabwe through His Excellency, the President of the Republic of Zimbabwe, Cde E.D. Mnangagwa pledged a Nationally determined Contribution (NDC) of a target of 40 percent per capita emissions reduction across all sectors of the economy. 

“This means Zimbabwe should adopt Climate Friendly Travel initiatives in the operations of the Hospitality industry. It is therefore critical that as a nation we play our part against this key phenomenon influencing the entire global environment. I also take this opportunity to challenge you to undertake a sector-driven initiative to make sure you join the nation in the massive tree planting programme that we are planning for this year. I wish to persuade you individually and as part of your congress resolutions to play a significant part in the 2021 National Tree Planting initiative of which the National event on the 04th of December 2021.”

The ministry through the Forestry Commission remained ready to partner the industry in that regard, the minister stressed. 

He reinstated Government’s unwavering commitment to continue to provide an enabling environment for the travel and tourism industry to thrive. 

“The Government of Zimbabwe continues to explore various initiatives favourable to the Tourism and Hospitality sector even during the Covid-19 period. Recently, our Government opened intercity travel to promote domestic tourism. 

“We also witnessed the opening of Victoria Falls and Kazungula border posts to vaccinated visitors, including hosting of meetings, conferences and exhibitions through hybrid means of both physical and virtual. 

“In addition, restaurants are now allowed sit-ins. Indeed, we hope all these developments will drive recovery of the sector particularly in the fourth quarter incorporating the usually busy festive season,” he said.

HAZ president Mr Clive Chinwada told the congress that their theme “Re-imagining and Navigating the Tourism & Hospitality Recovery Journey” was deliberately chosen to reflect some degree of optimism and confidence as the industry was beginning to return to some reasonable activity.

“The improved occupancies in our businesses show that we are a resilient industry and on the road to recovery though it had been worst hit by Covid-19.”

Mr Chinwada said he believed now is time when conversations around how to re-imagine and navigate the tourism and hospitality recovery journey from the bruises and bleeding caused by Covid-19 could be escalated with a view to mitigating any further damages that any fourth or fifth wave might bring.

He said the hospitality industry needed all the help which can be accessed and all the hands on the deck to ensure a sustained growth trajectory. 

The congress was attended by captains in the hospitality industry and other stakeholders with Mr John Robertson, an economist being the guest speaker.

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