TOURIST arrivals in Victoria Falls, Zimbabwe’s prime resort, were down 20% in 2015 compared to the corresponding year due to the Ebola virus after-effects as well as tax introduced on foreign tourists, an industry official has said.
BY MTHANDAZO NYONI
Employers’ Association of Tourism and Safari Operators president Clement Mukwasi told NewsDay that 2015 was tough for the tourism industry.
“Tourist arrivals in 2015 were down by 20% compared to 2014 weighed down by the issue of Ebola virus outbreak in West Africa. This is the reason why a number of companies in the industry did not pay bonuses,” Mukwasi, an executive at Shearwater Adventures, said.
“This year, due to a number of measures we had put in place, we are expecting an increase of 10% above last year. We want to beat 2009 figures, but we need to work hard to achieve that. However, it’s going to be an expensive year to run business in the sense that marketing budgets are going to be huge.”
The tourism industry is on a recovery path, following the Ebola virus outbreak in West Africa in 2014, which saw Zimbabwe losing business worth $6 million that year, according to the Zimbabwe Tourism Authority (ZTA).
The virus triggered a spate of trip cancellations, while several foreign buyers withdrew from Zimbabwe’s premier tourism expo in 2014.
While Zimbabwe bemoans the Ebola outbreak, neighbouring Zambia was last year expecting one million tourist arrival, indicating an average 3,24% growth over five years.
Mukwasi said the completion of the much-awaited Victoria Falls International Airport would see more airlines being licensed to operate in Victoria Falls.
The government says the completion of the project will boost the airport’s aircraft handling capacity and tourism into Victoria Falls by accommodating around 1,2 million passengers per annum compared to the existing capacity of 400 000.
Mukwasi urged the government to desist from burdening the tourism industry by charging high value-added tax (VAT) and licensing fees.
He said the introduction of VAT on foreign tourists’ payments for accommodation and tourism-related services affected the industry.
Mukwasi said the industry also took a knock from the depreciation of regional currencies like the South African rand.
He said since the government declared Victoria Falls a tourism special economic zone, they had received a number of enquiries from investors.
According to a recent report by the 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 in 2014, boosted by mainly South African visitors.