TOURIST arrivals at Zimbabwe’s prime resort, Victoria Falls have plunged to below 85% on average in 2015 compared to last year’s numbers due to the introduction of the value added tax (VAT) and depreciation of regional currencies, an official has said.
BY MTHANDAZO NYONI
Employers’ Association of Tourism and Safari Operators president, Clement Mukwasi, told NewsDay that tourist arrivals in Victoria Falls were expected to fall to below 85% compared to last year in the same period.
“We are expecting to achieve below 85% of last year’s figures on average,” Mukwasi, who is an executive of the Shearwater Adventures Group, said.
He said the numbers of tourist arrivals were declining as regional currencies were weaker, makinging Zimbabwe more expensive compared to its neighbours.
“You will find out that tourists from these countries, such as South Africa, prefer to go to countries with weaker currencies than theirs,” he said.
Tourism players are still crying foul over the introduction of VAT on foreign tourists’ payments for accommodation and tourism-related services.
The move has been described as “not intelligent” by Tourism minister Walter Mzembi, as it makes the country an expensive destination.
The industry is also on the recovery path, following the Ebola virus outbreak in West Africa last year, which saw Zimbabwe losing business worth $6 million in 2014, according to the Zimbabwe Tourism Authority.
According to a report by the Zimbabwe Tourism Authority (ZTA), Zimbabwe’s overall tourist arrivals were at 930 276 in the first six months of 2015, compared to 876 163 registered in the corresponding period last year boosted by mainly South African visitors.
Mukwasi remained optimistic that next year would be better than 2015, as they had introduced a number of measures to keep the industry moving such, as three-tier approach system.
Meanwhile, Mukwasi commended the move by the government to declare Victoria Falls a tourism special economic zone, as it would have positive effects in addressing liquidity challenges in the country and revives the financial sector.
He said the declaration would facilitate entry of new players bringing competitiveness into the industry. Mukwasi said it was not only the tourism sector that would benefit from such a move, but also some players in the banking sector.
Addressing delegates at the just-ended Local Government Economic Development Forum 2015 in Bulawayo on Wednesday, ZTA chief executive officer, Karikoga Kaseke said Victoria Falls needed about 1 000 more rooms by 2020.
He said the country has become a transit route, as last year about 600 000 tourists passed through Zimbabwe to South Africa.
Kaseke urged the government to build a mall in Victoria Falls to make it a shopping destination for the Sadc region.