To fast-track recovery of the tourism sector, the government of Zimbabwe has prioritised the tourism sector – Victoria Falls in particular – for Phase 2 of its vaccination roll-out campaign.
The Phase 2 roll-out launched on Monday with tourism workers and residents visiting centres and mobile units to get their first vaccination. Victoria Falls is aiming to be the first city in the world to be fully vaccine compliant.
“Tourism is the lifeblood of the Victoria Falls economy and a precious foreign exchange provider for Zimbabwe. We welcome the government putting the sector at the centre of its health and economic recovery plan,” said Shelley Cox of the tourism business collective, We are Victoria Falls.
Yesterday (Wednesday, March 24), Zimbabwean President, Emmerson Mnangagwa, and the Minister of Environment, Climate, Tourism and Hospitality, Mangaliso Ndlovu – amongst other high-level government delegates – flew to Victoria Falls to conduct an official ceremony of the Phase Two vaccination roll-out.
The negative impact on tourism businesses in Victoria Falls has been devastating throughout the COVID-19 pandemic.
We are Victoria Falls conducted an initial impact survey with tourism stakeholders in Victoria Falls last year, highlighting that, as of July, 27% tourism staff had been retrenched, 49% were on short time, 18% on unpaid leave and 6% were not affected.
In the same month, tourism businesses had experienced a 50% drop in turnover (over July 2019) and saw 69% cancellations in forward bookings.
“The impact since then has been far more extensive but the findings from that survey highlight how important a recovery of tourism to the destination really is,” said Cox.
She said government’s unique approach to prioritising the vaccination of the residents of Victoria Falls would be a game-changer for the destination, building confidence in the international tourism markets and assisting in the recovery of tourism to the destination.
"We are excited as a tourism industry that this windfall vaccination programme is going to revive tourism to the destination, and it has certainly bought an immense amount of hope to us all," commented Tendai Nemaungwe from Premier Guest Lodge.
"The vaccination roll-out has been such an important step towards the safe resumption of the tourism industry and reigniting our livelihoods. As a family man, it provides a sense of safety for me, my family, our community and our country," said Sam Mushandu, owner of Rukoko Safaris based in Victoria Falls.