The tourism sector which was slowly returning to full scale operations since the easing of restrictions is under threat again amid fears that government is considering full scale lockdown to contain the recent spike in COVID-19.
Zimbabwean hotels shut their doors beginning of April due to the COVID-19 pandemic and have slowly re-opened since government eased restrictions.
Hotels in tourist destinations such as the eastern highlands and Victoria Falls have seen visitors slowly trickling in beginning of last week.
But a recent spike in COVID-19 cases has raised fears that customers might refrain from traveling.
“People are still concerned about what is currently going on especially with cases now going up, I think it’s actually going to negatively affect whatever hope was there. So we remain open but more alert,” Nyanga’s Montclair Hotel and Casino general manager, Brian Nyakutobwa said in an interview.
Zimbabwe has seen around 90 percent increases in confirmed COVID-19 cases in the past two weeks, reaching a total of 985 cases and 18 deaths.
The development is hence expected to slow down progress on the economy that is yet to recover from nearly three months in hibernation.
To compound matters, international tourists who contribute significantly to hotel accommodation remain excluded as international travel is yet to resume.
Montclair Hotel has been receiving a steady increase in bookings from domestic visitors but now its management fears that business could plummet again.
“Covid-19 is still there so the traffic is very slow. We are getting bookings but they are not as many, they are not where we would want them to be. So the situation is still very constrained in terms of the traffic that we want to be coming through,” Nyakutobwa added.
Zimbabwe’s tourism is this year expected to lose between US$ 500 million and US$ 1 billion due to COVID-19 restrictions with potential losses in hotel accommodation contributing a substantial share.
On Friday, President Emmerson Mnangagwa hinted on tightening lockdown restrictions in days to come following the spike in COVID-19 cases.
“I urge the party to continue to be in the forefront of raising the awareness levels in our communities of the dangers of this pandemic. The recent rapid spike of infections requires that we make another review of the COVID-19 lockdown measures,’’ Mnangagwa told a Zanu PF Ordinary Session of the Politburo.
However, reverting to tighter lockdown rules will have excruciating consequences on the already derelict economy yet stern decisions will have to be made to curb the spread of the pandemic, a dilemma that complicates Mnangagwa’s position.