The Sunday Mail
Natasha Kokai and Norman Muchemwa
Some Zimbabweans last week celebrated Christmas with a difference, as they ditched the madding crowds in cities in preference to resorts dotted around the country. It naturally translated to a windfall for popular destinations such as Victoria Falls, Nyanga and Vumba, according to the Hospitality Association of Zimbabwe (HAZ).
Occupancies resultantly soared to above 90 percent during the Christmas holiday and tapered off thereafter.
Locals traditionally prefer spending quality time indulging with family and friends during holidays.
But merry-making at city hotel seems to be an expensive option.
HAZ president Mr Innocent Manyera told The Sunday Mail last week that pricey meals and related products are a major put-off for local holidaymakers, most of whom have low disposable incomes.
“Resort hotels recorded occupancies above 90 percent from December 22 to December 26, with business slowing down thereafter.
“We are talking of destinations like Victoria Falls, Kariba, Nyanga and Vumba.
“However, city hotels had low business since most people preferred resorts.
“Also the issue of reduced disposable income made it difficult for most people to visit city hotels for meals and other day excursions,” said Mr Manyera. Zimbabweans have increasingly been patronising local hotels and sampling tourist products since the beginning of the year, as the feel-good factor created by the new political administration becomes pervasive.
“From January to date, hotel occupancy is at 61 percent compared to 59 percent in the same period last year.
“This was driven by the ‘open for business’ mantra, election preparations and post-election initiatives that have seen most city hotels busy.
“Resorts like Victoria Falls also enjoyed business due to the peaceful environment, as well as the availability of an international airport and extension of the Kaza UniVisa facility,” he said. Kaza UniVisa is an initiative by Zimbabwe and Zambia which guarantees tourists easy movement between the two countries by allowing them to use a single document to access either of them. The hospitality industry believes there is need for more tailor-made products for local tourists.
Mr Manyera said: “We hope the ills affecting the country will be addressed, as they make our operating environment difficult.
“The parallel exchange rate and pricing of commodities should be dealt with so that our business becomes easy.
“To boost the tourism sector, the drive has been on packaging different country destinations as a total tourist package. We are also lobbying for the country’s marketing arm, Zimbabwe Tourism Authority (ZTA), to be funded for it to do as many initiatives as possible to boost arrivals.
“We are urging all operators to continue promoting domestic travellers, who will be ambassadors of our country to the foreign travellers.
“Also retooling and refurbishment of our facilities will continue.”
HAZ believes the strong performance in the sector will spill over into the new year. Early this year, the Reserve Bank of Zimbabwe (RBZ) unveiled a $15 million tourism facility that was meant to help the industry retool.
Domestic tourism is helping augment the rising number of international visitors.