Oliver Kazunga-Senior Business Reporter
HOSPITALITY concern, Rainbow Tourism Group (RTG) says the domestic tourism market has driven its business during the Covid-19 pandemic period when the world embarked on national lockdowns and travel restrictions to contain the disease.
Covid-19 is a respiratory infection that was first detected in China in December 2019 before spreading to the rest of the continents killing millions of people.
As part of the measures to contain the spread of the disease, countries across the globe embarked on national lockdowns and travel restrictions in line with the World Health Organisation (WHO) protocols.
In doing so, the global economies were negatively affected with the travel and tourism sector cited as the largest hit as hotel occupancy rate and international arrivals declined significantly.
However, the global village has started opening up and easing the national lockdowns and travel restrictions as cases of the pandemic the world over are on a remarkable decrease.
Speaking during RTG’s 23rd Annual General Meeting in Harare on Wednesday, the hospitality company’s chief executive officer Tendai Madziwanyika said: “In the absence of international travel, in a way Covid-19 had a positive impact in our domestic market, both in terms of us as an industry focusing on our own people.
“Secondly, in terms of just embracing tech (digitisation), the tech usage rate and penetration has tremendously increased and we think it’s going to be positive for us in the long term.”
In the financial year ended December 31, 2021, the group’s hotel business recorded a 29percent growth in occupancies to 31 percent from 24 percent in 2020.
The group’s major source of business was the domestic market driven by city hotels.
“RTG is beginning to realise the fruits of its digitisation innovation- the Gateway Stream platform, which is set to drive the company to exponential growth in the future.
“The Gateway Stream is Zimbabwe’s first super-app with twelve sub-apps across a wide range of products and services.
“Owned by Rainbow Tourism Group, the platform was locally-conceptualised, developed, and launched in 2018,” said Mr Madziwanyika.
“The Gateway Stream is a home-grown innovation that Zimbabweans can be proud of. It is a one-stop online marketplace that offers a diverse range of products, services, and experiences.
“There is significant traction for the new revenue channels as evidenced by the four-fold growth in active subscribers on the platform which grew to 66 000 in 2021 from 15 000 in 2020.
“The platform has since expanded from four hospitality-specific sub-applications to twelve sub-applications which include accommodation, holiday packages, food and drink, insurance, hardware, groceries, cab-hailing, deliveries, pharmacy, and Gateway Stream Music.”
Through strategic partnerships, he said RTG has listed over 60 000 accommodation rooms in 26 countries in Africa using the digital platform. In 2020, the group launched the Gateway Stream Music platform.
“This was at the height of the Covid-19 pandemic when artists were unable to perform due to the lockdown restrictions.
“Gateway Stream Music was the pioneer in offering a live-streaming Pay Per View platform, thereby enabling artists to host virtual shows and eke out a living during difficult times.
“The music platform was created to empower artists as they can monetise their work. The application gives artists back-end access which enables them to upload their music, set pricing, and engage with fans through the embedded socialisation page.”
Meanwhile, Mr Madziwanyika said when Covid-19 was at its toll, a number of companies in the tourism and hospitality sector retrenched their workforce but RTG did not take that route.
He said despite RTG’s flagship, the Rainbow Towers Hotel in Harare being used as a Covid-19 centre in 2020, none of the employees contracted the highly infectious disease.
“Even when we were tasked to look after our brothers and sisters in 2020 when Covid-19 broke out in the country, none of our employees contracted Covid-19.
“We kept track of this and not only here (Rainbow Towers Hotel) but throughout the group, no single person tested positive for Covid-19.
“That really speaks to our standards and how we are continuing to ensure that we put our people (workforce) first and ensure that they are safe in whatever they are doing to drive business.” Going forward, the group anticipates that rooms and conference business will continue to recover in city hotels. Bulawayo-based Standard Hotel general manager Mr John Goba said the domestic tourism market has been pivotal in supporting the local tourism players.
“The domestic tourism market has been critical in supporting local hotels not only during the period when Covid-19 was at its peak with countries imposing travel restrictions.
“Even now when things appear to have eased in terms of travel restrictions, the hospitality sector is moving because of the bookings from local travellers,” he said