By Matabeleland North Correspondent
THE country’s tourism industry has been the biggest casualty of the spreading deadly coronavirus with hotels and tour operators in Victoria Falls recording close to 50% accommodation and activity cancellations.
The cancellations have been compounded by the demand for a health certificate by health and immigration officials at the country’s ports of entry, which industry players said turned away tourists.
Further challenges are that tourists are shunning Zimbabwe amid grave concerns that the country does not have adequate resources to handle coronavirus situations at its border posts and health facilities.
While room occupancy and activity bookings dropped by around 30%, hotels responded this week by terminating contracts of scores of short term contract workers as a result of loss of business.
Mostly affected are waiters and waitresses, chefs and cooks with less than five months long contracts.
The hotel industry usually offers between three to five months long contracts to casual workers starting in March when the industry starts picking in terms of business.
However, many lost their newly signed contracts during the week as the industry responded negatively to fears about the coronavirus.
While no case has been confirmed in the country, fears about suspected cases have led to visitors either cancelling their trips and bookings or asking for indefinite postponement.
The industry, under the auspices of Zimbabwe Tourism Authority convened an urgent meeting in Victoria Falls during the week where they expressed concern about a looming dip in business.
Hospitality Association of Zimbabwe chair for the Victoria Falls chapter Arnold Musonza said the cancellations are too high with some individual operators losing all clients.
“We have had several cancellations as clients ask for postponement or even outright cancellation,” said Musonza.
“This is terrible and we are worried as an industry because many will lose jobs. Right now there is the issue of a health certificate which they are demanding from travellers at border posts when entering Zimbabwe, it is scaring visitors away.”
One hotelier said if the coronavirus continued, it would leave the hospitality industry grounded.
“We are worried to say the least because of cancellations. If nothing is done this coronavirus will leave the industry grounded. As we speak, business has drastically gone down as almost all hotels have suffered cancellations at a time when we thought we were beginning to pick up,” he said.