Ishemunyoro Chingwere and Kumbirai Tarusarira
Government is concerned with the country’s hotel room stock which it says projections show would be over 2 000 rooms short by end of 2020 thus curtailing the growth of the tourism sector.
This was revealed by Environment, Climate Change, Tourism and Hospitality Industry Permanent Secretary Mr Munesu Munodawafa when he addressed the 2019 Hospitality Association of Zimbabwe (HAZ) congress in Mutare yesterday.
The congress is running under the theme “Hospitality stepping into the 4th industrial revolution”.
To this end, the permanent secretary called on industry players to consider room expansion programmes so as to cover the envisaged gap.
Tourism is one of the key pillars on which Government seeks to revive the economy after years of recession.
“New hotel developments and expansions are a key component of the tourism growth strategy going forward, especially when taken in the context that the current room stock of 6 483 rooms may result in a cumulative shortage of about 2 087 rooms as early as end of 2020 going by projected modest tourism growth,” said Mr Munodawafa.
“I therefore urge all members undertaking or planning new investments to work closely with my ministry in addressing any impediments to such noble intentions so that together we can attract more investments in the sector,” he said.
He noted positive developments in that front where some establishments have been working on expansion programmes.
Among those that have embarked on expansion programmes include Shearwater Lodges who added 36 rooms, Golden Peacock who have added 30 while another hospitality establishment — Palm River Lodge — with 73 luxury rooms is being constructed in the resort town of Victoria Falls.
The permanent secretary also called the private sector to partake in Government’s 2023 Tourism Roadmap by which the industry should attain US$6 billion industry status.
“I therefore call upon the hospitality association to submit to the ministry, by end of this month, its input in terms of bottlenecks to be dealt with and strategies to achieve a US$6 billion Tourism Economy by 2023,” he said.
Meanwhile, Mr Munodawafa said the hospitality sector should adapt to current technology in their refurbishment plan in order to enhance the overall guest experience through technology such as development of smart rooms.
He said the hospitality sector provides low hanging fruit for economic recovery.
“It is therefore worrying that the available statistics for 2019 so far shows a decline from the same period in 2018. I mention these figures in relation to room occupancy which shows a marginal decline,” he said.
The tourism and hospitality industry is regarded as one of the low hanging fruits expected to play a significant role in turning around the country’s fortunes.
But economic headwinds being experienced across sectors have not spared the hospitality industry with declines in business being recorded.
Already, hospitality group, African Sun has indicated occupancies for the third quarter closed at 51 percent representing a 24-percentage point decline from 75 percent recorded in the same quarter in 2018. This was represented by a 32 percent decline in room nights sold from 108 448 reported in the comparable quarter last year to 73 929 this year.
However, Mr Munodawafa said that Government is aware of the impact of the number of challenges which affect the hospitality sector such as power outages, fuel shortages and limited disposal incomes for local people to take holidays.
In order to curb the drastic decline in the sector’s performance Government has introduced a number of incentives designed to boost the local tourism industry which include initiatives such as the extension of the duty free rebate for capital goods and also car hire services and Safari Vehicles as mentioned in the 2020 National Budget statement.
“The Government facilitated the impartation of goods and vehicles worth $25 million through the rebate system which include 13 luxury buses 24 safari vehicles and 57 applicants who accessed various capital goods for refurbishment in the hospitality sector,” said Mr Munodawafa.