Farirai Machivenyika Senior Reporter
THE entire tourism sector has been reopened, with immediate effect, as the Government’s gradual easing of lockdown measures continues following notable success in containing the spread of Covid-19.
This was announced by Environment, Climate, Tourism and Hospitality Industry Minister Mangaliso Ndlovu yesterday.
Tourism is one of the sectors worst affected by the pandemic after worldwide bans on international travel.
Restrictions on local travel also affected the viability of the sector.
Minister Ndlovu said many tourism companies had been left on the brink of collapse and the resilience of the sector had been tested to the limit over the last six months.
“It therefore comes as a very welcome decision that Cabinet has allowed all tourism activities that had remained shut down as part of the measures to contain the coronavirus pandemic, to now resume full operations,” he said.
Activities that had been given the go ahead to resume included game drives, bungee jumping, zip liners, helicopter rides, lion walks, elephant rides and all registered tourism activities.
“For the avoidance of doubt, this also includes the resumption of boat operations on our lakes both for tourism and fishing (and other tourism related activities), in strict compliance with Covid-19 pandemic guidelines which have been developed,” he said.
Minister Ndlovu said his ministry had collaborated with various stakeholders to develop health and safety guidelines, which were approved by Cabinet, detailing protocols which needed to be followed to allow the whole sector to re-open safely.
This was in keeping with the overall global policy thrust to strengthen the capacity of the sector to emerge stronger to operate under the new normal.
Widespread consultations by the ministry led to the development of the National Tourism Recovery and Growth Strategy.
The blueprint was approved by Cabinet and was subsequently launched by President Mnangagwa in Victoria Falls last month.
“The launch of the National Tourism Recovery and Growth Strategy leaves us with clarity as to what Government intends to do to deliver the sector from the current downturn,” Minister Ndlovu said.
Consultations were ongoing on further relaxations on the lockdown regulations to enable the revival of the sector, including review of curfew periods and payment of other statutory obligations.
The decision to re-open the industry comes at a time when massive retrenchments were looming in the sector with some companies having already sent employees on unpaid leave while others were put on half salaries.
In an earlier interview with The Herald on Wednesday, Minister Ndlovu said: “Domestic flights are resuming very soon and we are waiting for the Ministry of Transport to just advise but it has been agreed that the domestic flights will resume well in advance of the expected international flights which also we are hoping should resume by the October 1.”
The President of the Tourism Business Council, Ms Winnie Muchanyuka and captains of industry thanked Government for the decision to re-open the sector.
“We however, think that a decision on the revival of inter-city travel has to be made soon to enhance domestic tourism,” she said.