AS international travelling makes a comeback today after a six-month hiatus, tourism players have said they are ready to start receiving tourists with all health protocols now in place to contain the spread of COVID-19.

BY FIDELITY MHLANGA

Zimbabwean tourism players have welcomed the re-introduction of domestic and international flights following a six-month suspension due to the outbreak of COVID-19. This was after government approved the resumption of domestic flights on September 10, while international flights will restart today.

Tourism minister Nqobizitha Mangaliso Ndlovu told NewsDay Business that government was happy with the tourism players’ readiness to receive international
travellers.

“I think they are all well prepared, have done assessments and visits. I am satisfied,” Ndlovu said.

Hospitality Association of Zimbabwe president Clive Chinwada said the sector was ready to receive international tourists, adding that COVID-19 protocols were in place in hotels to ensure the safety of travellers.

“Our sector is ready and relieved at the same time once again at being able to serve travellers from within Zimbabwe and eventually international travellers due to the easing of travel restrictions. COVID-19 management protocols as guided by WHO, government and hospitality industry standards are in place and we believe travellers will come back to very safe hotels and restaurants,” Chinwada said.

He said the sector was going to exercise patience as it anticipates a gradual return to normal operations.

“We are pragmatic and understanding of the fact that you do not open borders tomorrow and have a sudden influx of tourists. Even with domestic travel, the lifting of intercity and interprovincial travel is a good development for the industry. However, planning for travel requires time. As such, the return of travellers will be gradual. The industry will need time to recover and the journey is going to be long, and will take at least more than a year,” he said.

According to set guidelines, tourists that would have tested negative for COVID-19 within 48 hours of their travel will not be required to go into quarantine centres.

Emmanuel Fundira, the chairperson of the Safari Operators Association of Zimbabwe, told our sister paper The Standard last month that the COVID-19 restrictions gave the country’s wildlife sector time to recover.

“The opening of domestic and international flights is something we welcome greatly in our sector,” Fundira said.

“You will also be surprised to hear that wildlife has been thriving because of lack of disturbances since March up to now. The amount of wildlife, which we now have is so significant and it’s arousing a lot of appetite among would-be visitors.”

United Nations World Tourism Organisation recently noted that the global travel industry had been hard hit by COVID-19, with international tourist arrivals predicted to plunge by between 60% and 80% this year, translating to a loss of up to US$1,2 trillion.

Up to 120 million global jobs that are directly related to tourism are at risk in one of the worst crises to hit international tourism. This year the tourism sector is envisaged to decline by 40%.

Zimbabwe received 2,4 million international tourists last year, down from 2,6 million arrivals in 2018.

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