By Last Mukwende
The tourism industry worldwide was one of the worst affected sectors of the economy as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic. This was as a result of travel bans posed by countries in the fight against the spreading of the pandemic.
International travelling was a nonstarter and people confined themselves to where they live. Moreso, internal movements were restricted and intercity travelling attracted scrutiny as it was only accorded those who had the very much need to travel. Curfews came into play thwarting overnight travelling; hence visiting tourist places far away from where one lived became impossible.
Science then came to the rescue through the manufacturing of vaccines which could be administered for the prevention and further contamination of the virus. Vaccination cards and certificates came into play, relaxing movements of people from one country to the other. This did not do much to increase the movement as people who travelled would be placed into quarantine for a maximum two weeks before they could be allowed to move around and tour. The whole process made touring boring and tourists both domestic and internationally decided to take a back seat.
In October 2021 travel restrictions globally were eased and this led to people travelling though vaccination certificates were still mandatory but curfews were relaxed making travelling easy. This gave hope for the tourism industry as people started trickling in and out of countries which had beautiful and historic tourist sites. Zimbabwe is amongst those countries as it has one of the Seven Wonders of the World in its confines.
The Government of Zimbabwe worked tirelessly encouraging people to get vaccinated and managed successfully to reach herd immunity in the tourist city of Victoria Falls, resulting in the city being a free to visit for those who were fully vaccinated. Zimbabwe could have lost between US$500 million and US$1 billion during the closure of the tourism sector due to the devastating coronavirus lockdown, the Zimbabwe Tourism Authority (ZTA) has estimated. The pandemic had a lot of instability to the economy and the contribution of the sector in its totality right from the grassroots level up to the top-dollar within the national GDP (gross domestic product). Responsible authorities within the sector set out what is called a tourism recovery strategy which would remodel where the tourism community must have its own economy of about $5 billion dollars by 2025. That is why the sector is promoting the culture of travel among the locals.
Domestic tourism is key in post Covid-19 tourism recovery efforts. The Tourism Recovery Plan seeks, to among other things, provide relief packages to affected tourism businesses including small businesses within the tourism value chain, save and secure jobs from being lost in the tourism value chain and re-establish contact with the local, regional and international tourism markets,
The Tourism Business Council of Zimbabwe (TBCZ) has recommended a plan of action to create a travel bubble within the Southern African community of nations, allowing for regional travel between what may be described as low-impact countries in terms of the spread of Covid-19. TBCZ was also following closely efforts and actions in neighbouring countries, and indeed across the world, to restore travel and tourism to operational conditions, as we cannot restore all of our own sector’s operations in isolation.
The highest levels of collaboration and co-operation between all areas of endeavour within the travel and tourism sector will be required, not only within the country but also with partners outside our borders. Domestic tourism flows have also been heavily affected by restrictions on the movement of people, but are expected to recover more quickly once containment measures are lifted. Nonetheless, it is unlikely that domestic tourism could compensate for the decline of international tourism flows, particularly in destinations heavily dependent on international markets. This will translate into significant macro-economic effects in countries, regions and cities where the sector supports many jobs and businesses.