Zimbabwe: Gov’t Eases International Travel Restrictions to Boost Tourism Revenue

Zimbabwe is a major tourist destination in sub-Saharan Africa, recording millions of visitors yearly. According to statistics from the World Travel and Tourism Council, Zimbabwe recorded 2,6 million international tourist arrivals in 2018, 6 per cent up from 2,4 million received in 2017. The growth in arrivals was driven by the notable growth in arrivals from all source regions and most major markets except for the Americas.


Zimbabwe’s ministry of finance reports that Tourism is the fastest-growing sector with a huge potential to fuel economic growth. It indicates that for the year 2018, the sector contributed 7.2% to the Gross Domestic Product (GDP), with tourist arrivals reaching 2,579,974 mark, a 6% increase from 2017. The trend continued to be upward as evidenced by the 2018 figures. The outbreak of the Covid-19 pandemic cast a pall on all that progress as the government was forced to shut down the country to check its spread.


UK Travel Journalist charmed by Zimbabwe's tourist attractions (C) NewZimbabwe.com


With the curve of the Covid-19 pandemic shrinking marked by the increased reopening of the economy, the Zimbabwean government is throwing open its tourist attractions to visitors from around the world once more. Despite the desire to boost the economy with tourist revenue, Zimbabwe still worries about the possibility of a new surge in the spread of the virus.


In this light, tourists coming into the country and who show Covid-19 symptoms will pay USD$60 for Coronavirus testing irrespective of whether they have a Covid-19 free certificate or not. Far from simply protecting the people of Zimbabwe, the decision is also meant to raise funds for the government treasury.


Talking about the issue Tuesday, September 29 during the 34th post-cabinet briefing in Harare, Information, Publicity and Broadcasting Services Minister, Monica Mutsvangwa emphasized that funds raised from the testing fees would go towards replenishment of laboratory commodities.


Information, Publicity and Broadcasting Services Minister,  Monica Mutsvangwa


Ports of entry are expected to open to the public on October 1, after the government further eased Covid-19 lockdown restrictions. Metered taxi operations have been allowed to resume service to allow for the movement of tourists and citizens who are unable to use public transport.


“As a measure to guarantee the safety of travellers, Cabinet further resolved that in line with Statutory Instrument 216(5) Section 8, which requires travellers showing Covid-19 symptoms, whether or not they have a Covid-19-free certificate to be tested, a nominal fee of US$60 be levied on travellers tested at ports of entry…and that the proceeds be used to replenish laboratory commodities”, Mrs. Mutsvangwa said.


The Minister said the resumption of international flights and reopening of airports was on course with an assessment of major airports having been completed.


“Cabinet wishes to reassure the public that the resumption of international flights and the imminent re-opening of Victoria Falls International Airport on 1 October 2020, is well on course and that the assessments of other major airports have been completed,” she emphasized.


This magnificent image cannot leave anyone  indifferent and this can only be found in Zimbabwe (C) Travel and Leisure Blogger


In the meantime fears that the government was reopening the country without taking adequate measures to safeguard the health of the people have persisted. The litmus test came with the resumption of schools on Monday, September 28. The first day was marked by chaos as teachers continue to stay away demanding better salaries and personal protective equipment (PPE).


Through their respective unions, the teachers are demanding salaries pegged to the US dollar to mitigate the galloping inflation the country is witnessing. They also say most schools did not meet the standard World Health Organization (WHO) regulations, with some not having running water and hand sanitizers.


In response, the government of President Emerson Mnangagwa, has rather threatened to replace the striking teachers with about 10,000 qualified, but unemployed teachers who are currently on standby.


Primary and Secondary Education Minister, Ambassador Cain Mathema, told the state media that measures had been put in place to employ the bulk of qualified, but jobless, teachers if the strikes continued.


“Negotiations between government and its workers are ongoing and we hope that they will soon find common ground to improve the lives of civil servants…Some teachers might want to hold the government to negotiate by not reporting for duty waiting for the completion of these negotiations. What we are saying is that learners have not been going to school since March and the government will not allow a situation where they continue to be disadvantaged”, the Minister warned.


Schools are being opened in a phased approach with examination classes being given priority. The second batch will open on October 26 while the third and last group will resume school on November 9. The term will end on December 18, 2020.