Africa Moyo Deputy News Editor
The tourism sector is optimistic of a quick turnaround following the United Kingdom’s decision to remove Zimbabwe from the Covid-19 travel red list.
Along with 46 other countries, Zimbabwe is set to be removed from the travel red list on Monday after the UK noted a dramatic fall in new Covid-19 infections, together with a generally satisfactory vaccination programme.
Apart from improved business exchanges between the two countries, the tourism and aviation sectors are set to benefit from the development.
Crucially, the Zimbabwe men’s national football team, the Warriors, could field a considerably strong team in the World Cup qualifiers scheduled for November.
But it is the tourism sector that believes the removal from the red list would be a game-changer.
Environment, Climate, Tourism and Hospitality Industry Minister Mangaliso Ndlovu told The Herald yesterday that the UK was one of Zimbabwe’s major tourism source markets and the decision will boost arrivals into the country.
“We welcome this decision by the UK to remove a number of countries from the red list, including Zimbabwe,” he said.
“The stage at which we are, both in terms of positivity rate and vaccination progress did not warrant us being in the red list. This will certainly positively impact tourism because the UK is one of our major source markets.
“The quarantine requirements made travel very expensive and it militated against global efforts to revive travel and leisure. So we are looking ahead to increased travel between London and Harare.”
Zimbabwe Tourism Authority (ZTA) spokesperson Mr Godfrey Koti said the classification of Zimbabwe as a red list country had put the tourism sector in a disadvantaged position since the UK was “one of Zimbabwe’s major source tourism markets”.
“The announcement that destination Zimbabwe will be removed from the red list is incredibly exciting and the sector is fully prepared to help travellers get back to this beautiful tourism destination,” he said.
“This is a welcome development for the tourism sector in its generality. To us as the tourism sector, the announcement brings hope for recovery of the sector. “This is an acknowledgement of our Government’s efforts in fighting the Covid-19 pandemic. The vaccination programme has been a resounding success.”
Mr Koti said tourism players were looking forward to an increased traffic flow into Zimbabwe.
“We are expecting to see the resumption of flights into destination Zimbabwe,” he said.
UK Ambassador to Zimbabwe Ms Melanie Robinson also believes Harare’s removal from the travel red list would boost tourism.
“Glad to be able to announce this good news – #Zimbabwe to come off the red list next Monday. Great news also for UK #tourists and #diaspora planning trips to Zimbabwe; this makes travel easier between our two countries,” said Ms Robinson in a tweet on Thursday.
British Secretary for Transport, Grant Shapps, said apart from removing 47 countries from the red list, retaining just seven, he was also going to ensure travellers to England had fewer entry requirements.
After almost two years of inactivity due to global travel restrictions, the local tourism sector believes this could be the beginning of good times.
President of Tours and Safari Operators Mr Clement Mukwasi said the policy shift by the UK was consistent with the Second Republic’s determination to engage and re-engage all countries of the world.
President Mnangagwa has emphasised that Zimbabwe is enemy to no one, and is keen to re-establish relations with countries that had cut ties with Harare.
The UK’s decision to remove Zimbabwe from the red list comes after the country recently invited Zimbabwe to the 2021 United Nations Climate Change Conference, also known as COP26. It is the 26th United Nations Climate Change conference, and is scheduled to be held in the city of Glasgow, Scotland, between October 31 and November 12.