Following intense stakeholder engagements and lobbying by industry leaders, the country has resolved to restart the tourism sector towards recovery. The industry had been heavily battered by the global Covid-19 pandemic as all activities virtually grounded to a halt. “I am pleased to announce that following Cabinet approval, all tourism activities can now resume operations,” said Minister Ndlovu.
The tourism industry has been given green light to resume all business activities in its operations with immediate effect, putting an end to a five months closure as a result of Covid-19. The decision comes at a time when massive retrenchments were looming in the sector and thereby threatening many lives that are dependent on tourism for survival.
The restart of the sector is expected to excite the market and reignite global attention on “Destination Zimbabwe” as well as breathe in new life down the value chain. Environment, Climate, Tourism, and Hospitality Industry Minister Nqobizitha Mangaliso Ndlovu announced the decision yesterday, which follows Cabinet endorsement.
“These include but are not limited to game drives, bungee jumping, zip lines, helicopter rides, lion walks, elephant rides, and all registered tourism activities. “For the avoidance of doubt, this also includes the resumption of boat operations on our lakes both for tourism and fishing (and other tourism-related activities), in strict compliance with Covid-19 pandemic guidelines, which have been developed. “I mention this particularly because, in areas such as Kariba, the boating industry is a key anchor of their tourism industry for both leisure and fishing.”
The minister commended the tourism sector for resilience during the difficult times and assured that the industry will bounce back and achieve the US$5 billion tourism economy by the year 2025. The road towards re-opening of tourism started about two months ago when the Government began widespread consultations with stakeholders, a process which culminated in the launch of the National Tourism Recovery and Growth Strategy by President Mnangagwa in Victoria Falls last month.
Minister Ndlovu said the negative impact of the coronavirus induced lockdown was felt across the whole tourism sector and its value chains. “I am nevertheless convinced that the launch of the National Tourism Recovery and Growth Strategy leaves us with clarity as to what Government intends to do to deliver the sector from the current downturn. This, however, can only be achieved with the support of the private sector.
“One of the key questions that had remained unanswered after this launch related to those tourism activities deemed recreational and leisure, which had remained closed. ”Minister Ndlovu said Government was aware that many companies had sent workers on forced leave as a result of the Covid-19 disruption with most remaining on half salaries and in worst-case scenarios on unpaid leave.
He said Government and stakeholders have since come up with health guidelines, which were approved by Cabinet detailing protocols that need to be followed for safety as the sector resumes operations.
“Cabinet has allowed tourism activities that had remained shut down as part of the measures to contain the coronavirus pandemic to now resume full operations. This was in keeping with the global policy thrust to strengthen the capacity of the sector to emerge stronger to operate under the new normal.
Minister Ndlovu challenged the tourism industry to invest in and ensure safe operations through protocols such as temperature checkpoints, contact tracing, recording on the arrival of guests, physical distancing marking at their premises, deep cleaning, and disinfection of the facility among other things. He said the re-opening of the industry was a balancing act between saving the economy and strengthening response systems, adding that Government will intensify compliance checks.