Hospitality industry worries over Omicron

by | Dec 5, 2021 | Business, Local News | 0 comments

Hosia Mviringi

The Travel, Tourism and Hospitality industry has been plunged into uncertainty following the discovery of the Omicron Variant of the Covid-19 virus in Southern Africa.

The variant, which was first detected on samples taken from four unnamed European diplomats in Botswana, has triggered panic and pandemonium in Western capitals which have in turn reacted by issuing blanket travel moratorium on all flights originating from or flying into Southern Africa.

Zimbabwe has had to make the painful yet inevitable reciprocal precautions by instituting its own safety measures to prevent cross border transmission of the deadly virus.
Players in the travel and hospitality sector have reacted with shock to the latest restrictions.

“The latest travel restrictions come as a shock to us and the measures bear potentially devastating repercussions on the hospitality industry. As we speak right now, the industry is yet to come to terms with the number of booking cancellations as a result of the restrictions,” said Mr Tonderai Mutasa, a Lawyer and businessman with interests in tourism, based in Victoria Falls.

The unsavoury part of it all is that this variant comes at a time when the hospitality industry was beginning to recovering from a prolonged shut down of international travel at the peak of the Covid-19 induced lockdown.

In March this year Zimbabwe began to relax the strict Covid-19 preventive measures after launching one of the most successful stories in acquisition and rollout of the vaccination program.

The Tourism and Hospitality industry in Zimbabwe and elsewhere in the region was hoping to put the bruises of the past behind them as this year’s festive season promised rich pickings for the sector, buoyed by a more confident international clientele and a buoyant local market.

“Inasmuch as some international visitors may actually want to spend their holiday resting in their hotel rooms for the duration of the mandatory quarantine, it is hardly imaginable how they would reach destination Zimbabwe when air traffic is grounded. The restrictions are equally bad especially for adventure travellers who are specifically out to experience the beautiful Zimbabwean outdoors. This makes the whole situation very difficult for the sector,” continued Mr Mutasa.

Under the latest lockdown regulations all travellers into Zimbabwe are automatically committed to a ten day mandatory quarantine in designated facilities.
It is increasingly becoming difficult for the sector to bank on the domestic market whose financial strength lies in the ability of local industry to produce and trade, activities that could be hampered by the latest lockdown measures.

It is hard to imagine how such cities as Victoria Falls will survive in the face of this imminent threat to it’s lifeblood.
The town had become a giant white elephant during the first twelve months of hard lockdown. Companies closed and workers lost their jobs, families lost livelihoods while government lost billions of dollars in potential revenue.

Victoria Falls in May this year became the first city in Southern Africa to attain herd immunity as government made a deliberate move to focus on the city in the early stages of the vaccination program as a way to breathe new life into the tourism and hospitality industry.