Tourism gears up for busy Easter holidays South African airline FlySafair is now flying to Harare and Victoria Falls from Johannesburg. (File Picture)

Business Reporter

PLAYERS in the tourism sector are optimistic about better business prospects during the Easter holidays after significant investments to spruce up the facilities last year while growth in inbound air traffic is expected to increase the number of visitors from traditional markets.

According to the Tourism Business Council, average hotel occupancy for the same period last year was 55 percent, with resort town facilities doing better with a 98 percent occupancy rate while city hotels averaged 27 percent occupancy level.

Tourism Business Council chairperson, Paul Matamisa said, “The occupancy levels were more than expected in both sectors. Resort and city hotels recorded 98 percent and 27 percent occupancy rates, respectively, for the easter duration in 2023”.

Mr Matamisa believes hotels will be overbooked during the Easter holidays due to the anticipated increased passenger count coming through via air transport at a time when the country has seen a marked increase in foreign airlines coming into the country.

According to the lobby group, the major drivers of the anticipated occupancy over the easter period will be the foreign market expected to join holidaymakers from the local market in exploring the endless beauty of destination Zimbabwe.

This comes after South African airline FlySafair began flights to Harare and Victoria Falls from Johannesburg in October last year after obtaining permission from the International Air Services Council.

Another airline Cemair began flying into Harare and Victoria Falls on August 1, 2023, which came after Airlink launched direct flights between Victoria Falls and Johannesburg and Ethiopian Airlines started Heathrow – Bulawayo flights.

Bulawayo is a gateway to Matobo National Park and an ideal staging point for visitors to Hwange National Park and Vic Falls.  Bulawayo is Ethiopia’s third destination in Zimbabwe along with Harare and Vic Falls.

Zimbabwe’s tourism receipts increased by 24 percent to US$272,26 million in the period to September 2023 from US$219,45 million achieved during the previous quarter of the same year, largely as a result of improved tourist arrivals. Investments in local tourism in 2023 came from both local and foreign investors.

A total of US$300 million was invested in the sector last year to establish new facilities among them restaurants, hotels, lodges, safaris, and game parks.

Mr Matamisa said there has been marked growth in investments in the sector since the Covid-19era.

“We surely have seen a number of investments in the sector, be it new resorts or upgrading of the existing ones to stay abreast of the current trends. We have seen new lodges around the country and many game parks have been upgraded across the country,” Mr Matamisa said.

The sector’s optimism also comes after a typically slow month after the holiday season, January has been buzzing with life, defying expectations and painting a vibrant picture for the future of Zimbabwe’s tourism industry.

“Traditionally, January experiences a dip in tourism, but this year, Victoria Falls recorded an increase in business compared to the previous year. Both local and international and local tourists made up our clientele,” Elephant Experience marketing manager Janice Ncube told ZTN in an interview.

“We doubled January 2023 figures this year and it’s encouraging. We will continue to do various marketing initiatives to boost our numbers this year and beyond,” noted Chikopokopo Helicopters marketing manager, Jane Makanda.

The tourism players expect sustained growth throughout the year, with the upcoming Easter holidays and winter season, traditionally the peak tourism periods, expected to see even higher numbers. Zimbabwe’s tourism industry is expected to reach US$5 billion by 2025 and experts believe the target is attainable with January setting the tempo.

 

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