MUTARE, MANICALAND —
The Hospitality Association of Zimbabwe says the tourism industry is on a downward trend, registering a five percent drop in bookings between last year and March this year.
The association has attributed the slump in business to the prevailing harsh economic situation in the country fueled by a large number of police road blocks and crippling cash shortages.
George Manyumwa, president of the Hospitality Association of Zimbabwe, told Studio 7 in an interview that as a result of these challenges, more than 200 members of his association are facing a bleak future.
“Our daily average rate has dropped … and has dropped by about 5 percent between 2015 and 2016 … In terms of occupancies for the first quarter this year there has been an increase from 41 percent to 42 percent but my worry now is when I look at the figures for May and June we have had a drop, this is when we started to have a cash crisis so am anticipating a drop in the second quarter.”
Manyumwa said the situation is worrying. “In addition to that we also saw a drop in average room rate and also a drop in revenue per available room”
He added that some of the challenges faced by the sector can be overcome. “The challenges that we are faced with as an industry are like yesterday as I was coming from Harare going to Mutare we had 21 police road blocks and I can imagine if tourists are going to the Eastern highlands are stopped the way we were stopped. I don’t think it’s good for our tourism industry. The other challenge is that we also have is our borders such as at Beitbridge. You spend 11 hours there trying to cross; and you imagine any regional tourist coming. It is not feasible.”
Manyumwa further said his association has informed the relevant ministry about some of the problems faced by members of his organization.
He said the cash crisis is hitting them hard. “Our minister knows that we have really made reports on that and we are not happy about that in the industry. The cash crisis as well; you can imagine I was in Victoria Falls last week and I encountered quite a number of tourists who wanted cash in our ATMs and didn’t have money and rightfully they said we are going to stay for even a day, they were returned to their countries. I think we really need support on that.”
Lazarus Dokora, while acting Minister of Industry and Commerce, recently blamed the current cash crisis on citizens who do not want to use plastic money.
“The problem we have now is that in Zimbabwe we use more than 85% of our transactions in cash and less than 15 percent in plastic money. In other countries their total transactions in cash there are 12% and their plastic money transactions there are around 88 percent; so basically what it means is we are using more of cash than any other country as compared to plastic money. And that is why we are having these cash shortages.”
Chikanga–Dangamvura member of the National Assembly, Isau Fungai Mupfumi, said police road blocks are a noble idea, especially now when there is an armed struggle in neighboring Mozambique.
“Who are we to instruct the police to stop their operations. They are of a security nature, they know what they will be doing and the reason why there is an increase in roadblocks the reason could be something again of a security nature which we don’t know. Since the people are complaining that they are not making money out of their businesses we will continue engaging the police until they see the light where we are coming from.”
Tourism Minister Walter Mzembi was not reachable for comment as he was said to be attending crucial meetings.