Domestic Travelers to Now Drive Tourism Recovery in Zimbabwe
Tourism and hospitality are the economy’s low hanging fruits, tipped to grow to a US$5 billion sector by 2025 given the country is endowed with vast and exquisite attractions such as the majestic Victoria Falls, one of the Seven Wonders of the World.
However, the outbreak of the COVID-19 pandemic has negatively impacted progress towards the target, reported The Herald Zimbabwe daily. Many hospitality firms were badly affected, which reflected in their reduced reported earnings performances. Some of their facilities temporarily closed due to the unprecedented fall in demand as the pandemic hit the country in 2020 with travel restrictions imposed across the globe.
Now, market watchers say the domestic market in Zimbabwe should come to the rescue for the tourism sector and lead the recovery in the short to medium term.
“The sector is forecast to remain muted in the short term as demand from major source markets makes the eventual return. Recovery will hinge on an uptick in domestic tourism within this period,” stockbrokers IH Securities stated.
While overall performance for the first half of 2021 (1H21) remained depressed from renewed national lockdowns, it was not all doom and gloom with aggregate occupancy levels for the listed hoteliers rising to 24 percent for the 6-month period to June 2021 versus 19 percent industry occupancy in 2020.
Average daily rates were still trailing 2019 at US$91, attributable to the slump in foreign business, which normally pay in premium rates. During this period, inter-city travel and social gatherings were prohibited. Inter-city travel is a major driver for conferencing business which is a key contributor to revenue generation. The average daily rate grew by 24 percent to close the period at US$8,395, while the revenue per available room grew by 31 percent to US$2,014. Room occupancy for the half year to September 30, 2021, was 12.89 percent.
Growth will be underpinned by the easing of COVID-19 induced restrictions while the global vaccination program is also expected to continue driving the re-opening of world travel as well as domestic tourism. Rollout of the vaccination programs and partial return to normalcy in key source markets such as the United Kingdom and the United States is expected to bring a new dawn in the fight against the virus and subsequently improvements in the travel and hospitality industry.
Experts in the sector also see recovery hinged on the ability to adapt to the new normal where digitalization is fast growing, supporting remote working. These argue that technology is one of the key trends to influence the hospitality sector in 2022 and to keep up, technology developments will continue to support hospitality managers in making their properties more efficient.