Zimbabwe was rocked by its government’s announcement on Saturday, January 12, that petrol and diesel prices would increase by 150% at midnight on Sunday, January 13, making Zimbabwe fuel the highest-priced in the world.

In his first address to the nation on the growing crisis around persistent fuel shortages and Zimbabwe’s worsening economic environment, President Emmerson Mnangagwa stated: “With effect from midnight tonight, a fuel pump price of $3.11 per litre for diesel, and $3.31 per litre for petrol, will come into effect. These prices are predicated on the ruling official exchange rate of 1:1 between the bond note and the US dollar, and also on the need to keep fuel retailers viable.”

Before the increase, diesel cost $1.38 a litre, and petrol $1.43 a litre.

While tourists to the country who hire vehicles will be minimally affected by this as they will be charged a lower rate, locals are to bear the brunt of the more than doubling of the fuel price. “Foreign visitors and tourists can pay for fuel with US dollars cash or with an international bank card,” says Gavin Rennie, Director of Off2Africa. “The price of this fuel is $1.24/litre for diesel and $1.32/litre for petrol.”

Still expensive, but easier to swallow than $3.11 for diesel and $3.31 for petrol.

Graham Simmonds, Wilderness Safaris: Zambezi Travel Shop Manager, explains: “This means that if you are identified as a tourist – meaning, you have a passport or ID to this effect – you will be charged at the lower rate. This is about R300/R400 ($21.64/$28.85) less that a Zimbabwean would pay.”

Dylan Cox, Private Safaris’ Marketing Supervisor for Southern Africa, adds: “Fortunately for tourism, the increased fuel price will only affect the local currency. Tourists will be able to refuel at designated points at the normal rate. If routes and foreign exchange are planned correctly, it is possible that self-drive tours/safaris and transfers can be left unaffected.”

“We don't foresee that self-drive tourism will be affected adversely,” says Rennie. “Furthermore, reputable car-hire companies will make fuel available for their clients in major cities.”

Simmonds says the price increase will more likely be seen in food prices, for tourism players who purchase supplies from the city hubs and have to send vehicles to fetch and transport supplies back to their facilities.

Down the lines, the increase may well lead to overall price increases, as tourism stakeholders seek to rebalance their overheads; but safari/vacation prices in Zimbabwe should remain the same for pre-booked/prepaid travel in the short to medium term, says Rennie. “Most tourism rates are quoted in USD, and therefore rate increases for 2019 are unlikely at this stage, due to being hedged by the USD.”

Reports of protests in Harare and Bulawayo have been seen, but International SOS (ISOS) says that the hotspots have been identified in low-income, high-density areas around Harare and Bulawayo, mainly centred on the major urban areas. Major tourism hubs like Victoria Falls, for example, are ‘business as usual’, say local tourism players on the ground.

ISOS advises that while the situation could escalate quickly, ISOS expects it to remain relatively stable, and advises business travellers to try and plan their routes around these areas. If they do happen to find themselves in these areas, however, tourists should minimise their movements as much as possible until the situation stabilises.

At the time of publishing this article, no travel advisories had been issued, however travellers are advised to keep an eye on social media and updated news reports.