Hotels Plead With Govt To Review Lockdown As Occupancy Drops To Zero

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By Alois Vinga

THE hospitality sector has pleaded with the government to review the current strict Covid-19 lockdown restrictions as room occupancy levels hit zero as the industry faces huge financial losses.

Speaking to Saturday, Hospitality Association of Zimbabwe (HAZ) president, Clive Chinwada bemoaned the low business levels which have pushed the sector to the brink of collapse.

“Occupancies have plummeted in the last three weeks to zero percent in many destinations. There is very little activity taking place,” he said.

“We have been dealing with the pandemic for over a year now. In that year, we have had at least four lockdowns including the current lockdown. It is, therefore, reasonable to suggest that we cannot continue to have lockdowns ad infinitum.”

Chinwada pleaded with the government to reconsider measures in place and it possible to manage the spread of Covid-19 without closing the economy.

“As a sector, we have championed the vaccination against Covid-19 for our workforce which now stands above 70%. We have adopted management measures including sanitisation, disinfection, masking up, physical distancing making our industry one of safety in terms of protocols.

“To avoid the loses, therefore, consideration should be placed on the efforts by the sector and allow activities by the industry including holding workshops as we can demonstrate with confidence that as a sector, we are well placed to prevent Covid-19 from spreading,” he said.

Meanwhile, a snap survey of the financial performance by top hotels in the financial year ended December 31, 2020, shows Zimbabwe’s top hotels were severely choked by Covid-19 lockdowns.

In an update last week, Meikles Limited chairperson, John Moxon said the group’s hospitality division suffered huge losses.

“Profit after tax in the hospitality sector declined from a profit in the previous year of $629.2 million to a loss in the current year of $ 122.7 million as international tourism and travel halted due to the Covid-19 pandemic during the whole period under review, and adversely affected revenue, profits, and occupancy,” he said.

Tourism and hospitality group, African Sun Limited’s (AfriSun) revenue slumped to an inflation-adjusted loss of $1.5 billion for the year ended December 2020 as the group took a hit from the effects of the pandemic.

The group recorded a low occupancy of 23%, representing a decline of 25% points compared to 48 % recorded in 2019,” AfriSun chairperson Alex Makamure said.

Hotelier and tourism management company, Rainbow Tourism Group (RTG) also reported a 66% decline in revenue and a fall in occupancy by 21%  for the year ended December 31, 2020, as a result of the prolonged hard-hitting effects of Covid-19 on the tourism sector.