Yesterday in a press conference held in Harare by the Minister of Environment, Climate Change, Tourism and Hospitality Industry, saw the announcement of the resumption of Domestic Tourism and all tourism activities including boat cruises and house-boats across Zimbabwe. The press conference was attended by Secretary for Environment, Climate, Tourism and Hospitality Industry, Mr Munesu Munodawafa, the Acting Chief Executive of the Zimbabwe Tourism Authority, Mr Givemore Chidzidzi, Directors and Staff in the Ministry, the President of the Tourism Business Council, Ms Winnie Muchanyuka and several leaders within the Tourism Sector.

“We meet at a time when the whole world is trying to crawl back to life from the negative impacts of the Covid-19-induced economic shut down and subsequent travel restrictions, which have disrupted travel global chains. As you will all know, the impact of the pandemic on the Tourism Sector has been severe in our country, with many tourism companies on the brink of collapse. The resilience of the sector has been tested to the limit over the last six months. It therefore comes as a very welcome decision that Cabinet has allowed all Tourism Activities that had remained shut down as part of the measures to contain the Coronavirus Pandemic to now resume full operations,” said the Minister Honorable Nqobizitha Mangaliso Ndlovu.

During the time when the sector was closed, the Ministry together with stakeholders developed Health and Safety Guidelines, detailing protocols which need to be followed to allow the whole sector to re-open safely. This was in keeping with the overall global policy thrust to strengthen the capacity of the sector to emerge stronger to operate under the new normal. It was also during this period, that the Ministry led widespread consultations under strict social distancing conditions, which led to the development and launch of the National Tourism Recovery and Growth Strategy in Victoria Falls in August.

“This decision by Cabinet is indeed welcome as it comes at a time when massive retrenchments were looming in the sector and such layoffs would have threatened the many lives that are dependent on tourism for survival. As Government we acknowledge that it has not been an easy journey for our sector and I am aware that most players had to send employees on forced leave. Most employees were on half salaries, and in the worst case scenarios, on unpaid leave. The negative impact of the Coronavirus induced shutdown was felt across the whole tourism sector and its value chains. However, the impact was more severe in towns such as Kariba and Victoria Falls, which are predominantly tourism reliant cities. We hope that with this decision to reopen, domestic tourism will breathe life into the sector and allow us to pick up the pieces again,” said Minister Ndlovu.

The opening of airports to both domestic and international travel is a decision which is still under the active consideration of the government. The decision requires meticulous re-examination of the airports and the whole tourism value chain to ensure that there is a robust Covid-19 support system to support this re-opening.

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