Hotel occupancy levels in Victoria Falls averaged 50% over the Easter holiday period this year, the highest in four years, buoyed by local visitors, industry players said .
Domestic tourism is geared towards a range of local experiences, particularly day trips and weekends, as well as business trips to key customers and suppliers.
The chairman of the Hospitality Association of Zimbabwe (HAZ) Matabeleland, Anald Musonza, said the Easter holiday which had just ended was much busier than last year as travel was not restricted.
“Victoria Falls hotels were averaging about 50% occupancy over the Easter period, that huge growth over last year,” he said.
Mr Musonza said the Easter holidays this year were the best in terms of occupancy compared to the past four years, due to a better state of the economy and a reduction in Covid infections -19.
“This year has been the best year in terms of occupancy in the past four years, as previous years have been affected by the currency shift coupled with inflation and Covid-19 over the past two years,” did he declare.
The association had predicted that hotels in Victoria Falls would see occupancy levels well above 50% of capacity.
“This year’s Easter coincided with Independence Day and more locals visited Victoria Falls,” Musonza said.
While domestic tourism alone is not enough to fill the void created by the loss of lost international business, more Zimbabweans traveling to the country have the potential to drive much-needed revenue growth.
“We still see more domestic tourists as the main anchor for our industry at this time, with regional and international markets beginning to open up and international travel picking up.”
Mr Musonza, on the effect of the eased closures, said: “Obviously with the reopening of the border we have also seen a lot of self-driving traffic coming in, across the country. We can see occupancy rates varying by less than 50% compared to the previous year during the same period when the occupancy rate was around 20%.
Tourism contributes to poverty reduction through job creation, encourages entrepreneurship and promotes social cohesion.
The 10th Victoria Falls Carnival scheduled for April 29-May 1, 2022 is set to increase occupancy.
With tourism being a key economic driver in the country, experts say it is imperative that policy makers are informed about how the sector is performing year on year, in order to maximize its potential. While the average employment potential in the Southern African Development Community (SADC) was 7.1% in 2012, Zimbabwe employed 8.7% of its workers in this sector, reflecting the importance industry for national development.
Regardless of the impressive employment record, the country still has underutilized capacity in the industry, hence the drive to grow the industry to a $2 billion industry by 2024. The arrival of the new waiver in 2017 resulted in a record $1.4. billion in tourism revenue in 2018, showing the global goodwill the new government has towed, according to the Zimbabwe Tourism Authority.
However, the huge drop to $359 million in 2020 as a result of the Covid-19 pandemic on travel and tourism.
Under the National Tourism Recovery and Growth Strategy – Vision 2025, the government aims to increase tourist arrivals to over 5.5 million by 2023, as well as boost tourism receipts by 1 billion US dollars in 2017 to 3.5 billion US dollars by 2023.