Freedom Mupanedemo Syndication Writer
IN a development that is likely to evoke serious introspection within the tourism sector, Zimbabwe Tourism Authority (ZTA) chief executive officer Mr Karikoga Kaseke recently revealed that the country is arguably one of the world’s most expensive tourist destinations. Addressing participants at a recent tourism stakeholders meeting, Mr Kaseke said Zimbabwe could be prejudicing itself of thousands of potential tourists because of exorbitant charges.
“I went to some country recently where I booked in a five-star hotel and paid a bill of $53 all inclusive. I was shocked and thought they had made a mistake in their calculations, but they reaffirmed the figure. This was when I realised that as a country, we need to do something to review our prices if we are not to earn a bad name as the world’s most expensive tourist destination,” said Mr Kaseke.
In Zimbabwe’s capital city of Harare, booking in the towering five-star Meikles hotel, the imposing Rainbow Towers or the elegant Holiday Inn remain a distant dream for many as the prices seem to be largely tailor-made for the few elites.
It costs between $100 and $200 to book in a five-star hotel while the price could double in major tourist resorts like the Victoria Falls. Zimbabwe, as a destination, becomes even more expensive given the South African rand’s slump against the United States dollar.
According to statistics provided by the Zimbabwe Tourism Council (ZTC), South Africa contributes 30 percent of tourists that come into Zimbabwe every year, but the figures have gone to below 10 percent thanks to the rand’s depreciation against the US dollar.
“Now tourists from South Africa choose to either do their holiday within South Africa or go to countries like Malaysia because Zimbabwe is increasingly becoming an expensive tourist destination. This is a huge setback on our tourism industry because traditionally, South Africa has been our biggest market. Now they can’t part with their hard-earned rand because it has lost value against the US dollar. We are feeling the effects now and the number of tourists’ coming into Zimbabwe continues to drop,” said Hospitality Association of Zimbabwe (HAZ) president, Mr George Manyumwa.
Mr Manyumwa said there were a myriad of reasons why Zimbabwe was an expensive tourist destination at the moment.
“It’s a chain that needs a holistic approach when looking at the cost drivers in Zimbabwe’s hospitality industry.” In Zimbabwe, it is highly expensive to run a hotel because of charges like levies, rates, taxes, and licences among a chain of issues that one needs to regularise before running a hotel or lodge.
To start with, one has to pay the Zimbabwe Revenue Authority (zimra) tax, you need to register with the Zimbabwe Tourism Authority and pay taxes there, one needs to pay utility bills like water and electricity on a monthly basis and it’s no secret that Zimbabwe is the most expensive country in the whole of sadc in terms of electricity charges.
Mr Manyumwa said with the depreciation of the South African rand against the US dollar, it was very difficult for the tourism industry to tick. He said the hospitality industry was working on strategies to survive like pegging hotel charges in rand.
“But even if we are to adopt the rand and peg our prices in rand, the situation is still very difficult. For our daily operations we use US dollars. Workers need to be paid in US dollars, bills and everything else is paid in US dollars.
“We are, however, engaging RBZ to see how best we can implement this,” he said. Zimbabwe Tourism Council president Mr Francis Ngwenya said pegging hotel prices in rand was not the lasting solution to the prevailing high pricing regime. He said prices were driven by the cost of running the business adding that there were more than 23 levies that have to be settled for one to operate a hotel or lodge.
“Some of these levies are duplicated, for example you pay a liquor licence with the Liquor Licence Board, and you still have to pay the liquor licences with the local authority where you operate under. Hoteliers are supposed to also pay a licence for television set in every room including radio. You need to also pay rates for each and every toilet that the hotel or lodge has. It’s an issue that needs to be addressed at a tripartite level if the country’s tourism industry is to lower prices and start luring tourists,” he said.
Editor of Zimtravel, Zimbabwe’s premier tourism magazine, Isdore Guvamombe, said there was need for hoteliers to lobby Government to cut down on levies. “As it is, we are overpricing our products and as a result outbidding ourselves in the tourism market. What the tourism players need to do is to engage Government so that some of the levies are scraped.
“These levies are the major cost drivers and need to be realigned for the best of our destination,” he said. — Zimpapers Syndication.