As of 17h00 on Wednesday, January 16, Zimbabwe’s Internet and email services are once again active. However, social media channels such as WhatsApp, Facebook, Twitter, and YouTube still remain blocked.
This followed a 24-hour connectivity blackout, where both social media and Internet access were blocked by service providers, allegedly mandated by Government to control riots being facilitated across the platforms. The unrest was triggered by a 150% price hike in both petrol and diesel.
Luke Brown, Co-founder and CEO of destination management company, Vayeni, based in Victoria Falls, told Tourism Update: “This morning [January 17] it appears that we can access our browsers and emails, but social media is not accessible, unless you can find a way to circumvent this – [with Victoria Falls] being a border town, those with foreign sim cards can roam on to neighbouring country networks.”
Gavin Rennie, Director of Off2Africa, says the restoration of Internet access is a welcome relief to the Zimbabwe tourism industry and business sector at large. “At least we can conduct business now,” he says.
Reports from tourism players across the country have said that it is “business as normal”. “Guests have enjoyed wonderful safari experiences with unaffected movement (road transfers/light aircraft flights) throughout the country,” says Rennie.
Brown adds that hotels, lodges, camps, transfers and activities remained operational throughout this period.
Fuel price hike not for tourists
Despite the announced fuel price increase, fuel purchased in foreign currency by tourists remains at a static price of $1.32/litre for petrol and $1.24/litre for diesel, and is reserved for foreign visitors and tourists who can produce a foreign passport, and who pay in USD cash, or with foreign debit/credit cards.
“Given the above announcements, we don't foresee that self-drive tourism will be affected adversely,” concludes Rennie.