Fungi Kwaramba and Mukudzei Chingwere
REELING from the effects of the Covid-19 pandemic and accompanying mitigatory measures such as travel restrictions, the tourism and hospitality sector is pinning its hopes on the ongoing vaccination programme for revival.
This follows the launch of the second phase of the national vaccination programme by President Mnangagwa in the resort town of Victoria Falls last week where all inhabitants of the city were invited to receive their vaccines free of charge.
Following the launch President Mnangagwa, himself was vaccinated in the premier tourism city, along with leaders of different political parties, as the nation ramps up its efforts to inoculate the population against Covid-19, a severe respiratory disease that has forced nations to impose lockdowns and limit international travel.
At the launch of the second phase the President said the vaccination programme “will pave way for unlimited tourism activities” in the world famous town and enable the nation to pursue its goals to become an upper middle-class economy by 2030.
Zimbabwe expects to leverage on internal competencies around domestic tourism to unlock wider potential and enhance operators’ capacities on the interim as it seeks to achieve a US$5 billion tourism economy by year 2025.
Following the launch of the vaccination programme, foreigners have been enquiring on whether they could receive the jabs upon visiting Zimbabwe, Environment, Climate, Tourism and Hospitality Industry Minister Mangaliso Ndlovu said.
“We have received inquiries from foreigners who want to come here and get vaccinated in Zimbabwe, our vaccination drive has gone very well. We are happy that it was launched in Victoria Falls and I am told, the vaccination campaign has been a huge success and I think this will help us reach a 60 percent herd immunity quickly.
“This will help us to receive tourists in a safe environment and also protect our people, considering the number of people they associate with in this sector,” said Minister Ndlovu.
Following the launch of the vaccination programme in Victoria Falls, players in the sector such as the Hospitality Association of Zimbabwe (HAZ) said the programme will mark the resumption of tourism activities in the city.
“We applaud the Government’s commitment to bringing back livelihoods that have been affected by the Covid-19 pandemic by creating the environment that will boost the resumption of safe international, regional and domestic tourism for the country,” said HAZ vice president Mr Farai Chimba.
“Victoria Falls as a premium destination and our hub of tourism has been severely impacted by the restrictions in travel caused by the pandemic hence this is a positive initiative to vaccinate the whole city.
“Favourable responses from our source markets are already coming and this will boost confidence in Zimbabwe as we take steps to balanced recovery.
“Whilst vaccines are being rolled out we should all take responsibility in ensuring health protocols are observed to build on the progress made in the fight against Covid-19,” said Mr Chimba.
Zimbabwe Parks and Wildlife Management Authority (ZimParks) administrators of the — Victoria Falls — one of the seven wonders of the world also welcomed the resumption of tourism activities and urged people to be vaccinated.
ZimParks spokesperson Mr Tinashe Farawo said this will go a long in boosting efforts of the sector to contribute significantly to treasury.
“It shows the seriousness of Government in making our tourism sector safe, and we are happy they have prioritised Victoria Falls safe to ensure the safety of people. The resumption of tourism activities will advance President Mnangagwa’s vision of creating a US$5 billion tourism economy by 2025,” said Mr Farawo.
Another player in the industry Ms Natalie from 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.