Bongani Ndlovu, Showbiz Correspondent
For five months, outgoing Zimbabweans have been cooped up in their homes as they could not patronise various tourist destinations, let alone, visit friends and loved ones because of the strict Covid-19 regulations.
Tourism destinations around the country were also shut down as part of a raft of measures by the Government to curb the spread of Covid-19. This forced outgoing Zimbabweans to adopt the “new normal” of staying at home.
Government’s recent relaxation of lockdown regulations allowing the reopening of the tourism sector therefore brought a huge sigh of relief to outgoing citizens.
“I am pleased to announce that following Cabinet approval, all tourism activities can now resume.
These include, but are not limited to: game drives, bungee jumping, zip liners, helicopter rides, lion walks, elephant rides and all registered tourism activities . . . this also includes the resumption of boat operations on our lakes both for tourism and fishing in strict compliance with Covid-19 pandemic guidelines, which have been developed,” said the Environment, Climate, Tourism and Hospitality Industry Minister Nqobizitha Mangaliso Ndlovu last week.
For many, being holed up at home for months was not easy as evidenced by the increasing number of people arrested by police for breaking the Covid-19 regulations.
Now that the tourism sector has been opened, people can spend quality time with their loved ones at destinations of their choice throughout the country. According to operators in the sector, its all systems go since the announcement of the opening of the sector.
Tour operators in Bulawayo such as Bushman Safaris have since resumed their Rhino Walks in the Matopos National Park. Through their spokesperson, Bongani Dube, they said it is not business as usual as they will be taking small groups of between eight and 10 people.
“We’ve been receiving inquiries and are ready to host our first guests since the lockdown. We’ll be taking small groups at a time and will be diligently following WHO recommendations to help slow the spread of Covid-19,” said Dube.
He said the only way for them to stay afloat post-Covid-19 regulations, is to have competitive prices that encourage domestic tourism.
“We’ve crafted new packages to suit domestic tourists. One of them will be a half-day tour including Rhino Walk, refreshments and braai in the Matopos National Park. We believe competitive pricing will be key in enticing local tourists to consume our tourism products.
“In the past, much focus was on international tourists but now is a good time to get our people to experience the beauty of their country at affordable rates,” said Dube.
One-day excursions are convenient for people in the cities and what is important is to ensure the rates are affordable.
Take for instance Blue Hills Camp which is located some 44km from Bulawayo along Esigodini Road. It has become one of the most preferred spots with people now holding private functions there.
This is because the venue offers affordable prices on their meals. One can also book the venue for a birthday, anniversary and other merrymaking events. The venue is ideal because other than its beautiful scenery, people can do bike riding over the rolling hills. Zip lining is another interesting activity that people can do together at the venue making it a perfect getaway location.
The short trips outside the city are very ideal for locals as it means reduced transport costs.
Saturday Leisure caught up with some locals who recently went to Matopos National Park who said they were happy the tourism sector has been reopened.
The crew of 10 that included one Thamsanqa Banda who among other places, visited Cecil John Rhodes’ grave, said they were not really interested in seeing the grave, but just wanted to get out of the city (Bulawayo) and catch up.
Having realised how fragile life is following the outbreak of Covid-19 pandemic, Banda said it has become very important for people to spend as much time as they can with those they value.
He said with the new way of life, for such excursions, people must travel with masks and hand sanitisers without fail. These have become essential and most of these places will not let you in without masks and sanitising hands is a must.
“We had to be safe as a group. We took Covid-19 precautions and the people at the National Park were very strict on adherence to regulations. We even met a television news anchor with his family and we just shouted our hellos as we didn’t want to risk infection from him and vice versa,” said Banda.
Women who also enjoy meeting over lunch are also excited that they have now resumed the meetings.
An excited Ms Beatrice Tonhodzayi shared her restaurant outing with friends on Facebook recently. She said although the experience is not the same anymore due to the new way of life, it is still worth it.
“Glad we ventured out after a long time indoors. Yes it’s not the same anymore, you have to be masked till you are seated at the table; you have to have your temperature checked on arrival and it’s sanitisation all the way.
“Tables are constantly wiped down while waiters are masked throughout. Outside seating has become a favourite while the danger around is always at the back of your mind. But it sure felt good to be out after such a long time, catching up with friends. We just need to adjust to the new way of life as we try to keep safe,” wrote Tonhodzayi.