Victoria Falls Reporter
THE Tourism Business Council of Zimbabwe (TBCZ) says the country should adopt a “new normal” approach and allow industry to operate under strict health protocols that include incentivising vaccinated citizens by allowing them to travel.
Tourism has been hardest hit by Covid-19 because of international and local travel restrictions.
TBCZ president Mr Wengayi Nhau said companies were now contemplating further laying off workers and closing because of lack of business.
Domestic travel that had shown potential in the absence of international tourism has been affected by an intercity travel ban while closure of land borders has also compounded the situation.
Mr Nhau said businesses now understand the new normal that Covid-19 is in their midst.
He said Government has supported the industry by availing vaccines and deliberately promoting tourism workers as frontline workers.
Mr Nhau said Zimbabwe should ride on the vaccination success story and allow those who have been inoculated to travel as an incentive, borrowing from international countries, some of which have been allowing vaccinated fans to watch football matches and enter hotels.
“This now calls for us as industry and human beings to learn to live in this new normal. We are in trouble and we are saying to Government, you gave us vaccines, let’s try and benchmark on the international standards where elsewhere like in the US, citizens are being incentivised to vaccinate by allowing those who have vaccinated to travel and not get quarantined on return.
“We can also borrow similar practices in Zimbabwe and open intercity travel and conference facilities and put conditions that all staff serving guests must be vaccinated,” said Mr Nhau.
He said it was unfortunate that tourism is fragile and reacts faster to closure and slowly to reopening as people take time to plan to travel.
Continuous opening and closing of the industry doesn’t inspire confidence in the market.
Arrivals had improved in October last year and a few months ago when the industry reopened before the recent Delta wave eroded all gains.
He said some companies had started rehiring staff as domestic tourism was picking following the reopening of the sector.
“Instead of closing hotels, conference facilities and restaurants, we can enforce social distancing and allow 50 percent capacity. There is no way we can dream of a viable tourism industry without land borders especially Victoria Falls and Kazungula because of their geographical location, they are our golden triangle and unique selling point.
“Let’s have a pilot programme of opening (land) borders and limiting activity to bonafide tourists with Covid-19 tourism visas. That can be a springboard for our industry recovery,” said Mr Nhau.
There is also need for the country to be pro-active and incentivise businesses and people, to maximise on opportunities and even attract airlines.
The tourism industry had adopted strict Covid-19 protocols and is prepared to open, and ahead of that reopening, it is encouraging members to get vaccinated.
Mr Nhau said tourism’s major business comes from conferences and meetings hence the need for relaxation of restrictions on meetings, which will save jobs, the economy and sustain the industry until such as time when things return to normal.