Joseph Madzimure-Senior Reporter
PLAYERS in the tourism sector have commended Government for ensuring that the resort town of Victoria Falls achieved herd immunity with over 77 percent of the population having received their second Covid-19 doses.
A mass vaccination programme was launched in the town last month, where President Mnangagwa received his first jab as part of efforts to revive the tourism sector.
Victoria Falls has an estimated eligible population of 25 000. Government deliberately supplied the town with 60 000 doses of the Sinovac vaccine to cater for all residents as part of a plan to ensure a safe return to business.
The tourism and hospitality industry is one of the key foreign currency earners in the country and employs thousands of people along the value chain.
Already, the country has the National Tourism Recovery and Growth Strategy, which seeks to provide increased funding to tourism businesses affected by the Covid-19 pandemic through a Tourism Revolving Fund.
The targeting of Victoria Falls for a concerted mass vaccination programme was therefore part of the efforts to revive the sector, something that has been welcomed by players in the industry.
The Zimbabwe Tourism Authority (ZTA) head of corporate affairs Mr Godfrey Koti said the vaccination programme in the resort town gives assurance to source markets that Zimbabwe is a safe and responsible destination.
“It shows that Government looks after its people and most certainly its visitors. It cares about them. This is the picture which we want to portray out there as a tourism destination in such difficult times.” Mr Koti said Victoria Falls is now a flagship model in Africa.
“This really puts an added vigour on the confidence of the destination out there and the response by the community and tourism operators within the particular area. It also shows that there is harmony between the private sector and the Government.
“For us as a national tourism organisation, it gives us the impetus to then go out there and talk more about what we have to offer from a product perspective. It gives us the vigour to go out there and market as much as we can and promote as much as we can for us to be able to bring in the numbers once some of these Covid-19 travel restrictions are lifted,” said Mr Koti.
Safari Operators Association of Zimbabwe president Dr Emmanuel Fundira said the herd immunity in the resort town of Victoria Falls spearheaded by Government in fighting the spread of Covid-19 is a game-changer.
“The first resort in the world to be number one on immunisation, this has generated positive vibes, it is a good selling point globally making Zimbabwe a must-visit. The interest and positive reviews out of booking channels are sufficient testimony of that,” said Dr Fundira.
Hospitality Association of Zimbabwe (HAZ) Victoria Falls chapter president Mr Anald Musonza commended the residents for taking the lead saying this would spur the revival of inbound tourism in destination Zimbabwe and Victoria Falls.
He appealed to Government to complement the achievement by reopening inland borders since a majority of the country’s tourists come by road.
Another player in the industry Ms Natalie Attwell, a manager at Crocodile Park in the resort town said the vaccination programme is the best route that the sector can take towards revival.
“Before Covid-19 business was good, we had outside and inside tourists, we had schools coming in, and even corporates were coming, team building groups, but as soon as Covid-19 hits, everything stops. Because we are in tourism, we depend on people, that is how we get our income, so it has been very difficult, we made hard decisions to cut costs in all aspects to keep operations going, so it has been very difficult.
“I think the key is to stay positive, take safety measures, because we are a tourism town, it is important that we get vaccinated to ensure that people visit us again from all over the world and especially local,” she said.
Tatenda Safaris lodges owner Mrs Tatenda Rangarirai Gunda who received her jab on Tuesday commended Government for quickly spearheading the vaccination programme in the resort town.
“We are extremely happy as the tourism sector. I also received my second jab on Tuesday this week.”
As the sectors, Mrs Gunda said they are appealing to the Government to open borders to allow smooth movement of tourists.
“The only hiccup is the closure of borders. We are appealing to the Government to open the borders for tourists for us to realise brisk business”.