By Staff Writer
Zimbabwe’s tourism sector could lose up to US$1billion in revenue as tourist arrivals into the southern African nation are expected to decline by up to 85% due to COVID-19, a senior government official has said.
The country’s tourism industry has been named as one of the hardest hit sectors following the outbreak after tourists cancelled bookings while airlines remain grounded.
Tourism Minister Mangaliso Ndlovu said the ZW$500 million allocated to the sector came after authorities mapped out three scenarios that could pan out after the pandemic which is expected to be contained during the second half of the year.
According to Ndlovu in 2019 Zimbabwe experienced an 11% decline in tourist arrivals from 2,579,974 received in 2018 to 2,294,259 largely due to destination image issues driven in part by a concerted deliberate negative messaging about the country and its key destinations.
Whilst for Zimbabwe an upturn in arrivals was expected in 2020, anchored on aggressive destination image promotion and marketing, the COVID-19 pandemic outbreak which started in November 2019 is expected to further dampen travel and tourism in Zimbabwe and indeed globally.
“Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, 2020 is projected to be a very difficult year for the tourism business as countries including Zimbabwe have gone into lockdown, whilst numerous business events have either been cancelled or postponed and flights have been suspended for a lengthy period of time,” Ndlovu said.
“With this in mind we have projected a three point scenario for tourists arrivals. The first is the best Case (optimistic) Scenario which assumes a 30% decline in arrivals and is based on the assumption that the outbreak will be contained by the second half of the year.
This may see us registering 1.6 million arrivals by year end. The Middle of the Road Scenario assumes a 60% decline in arrivals resulting from COVID-19 and this may see us registering approximately 920 000 tourist arrivals by year end. The last is obviously the Worst-Case Scenario which assumes an 85% decline in arrivals to close the year at 350 000 tourist arrivals.
“This is predicated on the assumption that the current status of restrictions on international travel persists until year end especially in our major source markets of Europe and the US.”
Overally, Ndlovu said Zimbabwe anticipates a consequent fall in tourism business, with the country set to lose between US$500 million – US$1.1billion in potential tourism revenue in 2020 from the projected revenue of US$1.4 billion.
He said the government had come up with a cocktail of measures to help the tourism sector absorb post-COVID-19 shocks which include a guarantee facility to assist the Tourism Sector to access working capital loans from banks; a tourism revolving fund; waiver of value-added tax on domestic tourism and deferment of liquidation of foreign currency paid by international clients. Get all COVID-19 statistics for Zimbabwe from COVID-TRACKER