Victoria Falls — THE re-opening of Zimbabwe borders has excited players in the tourism sector who say the move would allow free movement of tourists and boost their operations.
The tourism sector has been the hardest hit industry worldwide following imposition of travel restrictions as countries reacted to the global Covid-19 pandemic.
Like many parts of the world Zimbabwe's border entry points remained closed to the public while prohibitive PCR test requirements and quarantine terms restricted tourists from travelling.
However, the Cabinet on Tuesday resolved that all borders be opened after the country successfully contained the fourth wave of Covid-19 that was fuelled by the Omicron variant.
In a post-Cabinet briefing, Minister of Information, Publicity and Broadcasting Services Monica Mutsvangwa said when Cabinet adjourned on December 14, 2021, the country was in the midst of the fourth wave with an average of 4 014 cases per day.
The new cases now average less than 1 000 daily.
This re-opening of national borders comes as Zimbabwe, as a destination, has been getting significant inquiries from tourists wishing to visit the country.
Airlines are also lining up to fly into Zimbabwe, especially to Victoria Falls, with Lufthansa's Eurowings Discover scheduled to make a maiden flight to the country's prime resort at the end of next month.
Hospitality Association of Zimbabwe (HAZ) Matabeleland North chairperson, Anald Musonza, said the industry could now intensify marketing strategies.
"The re-opening of borders across the country is a huge boost to our tourism arrivals traffic as this encourages free movement of the fully vaccinated people," he said.
"As an industry, we hope to start aggressively marketing destination Zimbabwe and its various tourist attractions given the removal of all the major travel restrictions like quarantine and border closures."
Mr Musonza said the industry looked forward to removal of the PCR test requirement as it was a huge cost for clients.
Travellers into Zimbabwe are required to produce a valid negative Covid-19 PCR test result taken within 48 hours. It costs between US$30 and US$75 to get a PCR test.
Victoria Falls, in Matabeleland North Province, is the country's tourism capital. The province also has numerous tourism activities along the Zambezi River while tourists can also enjoy viewing game animals in Hwange, Chamabondo and Zambezi national parks.
There are also sand beaches, fishing and boating in Binga, a district with a unique and rich culture, which on its own is an attraction to tourists.
Matabeleland North Minister of State for Provincial Affairs and Devolution, Richard Moyo, said the Cabinet decision would benefit tourism.
"We are more than happy as a province because the tourism sector will benefit. We were relying on local clients and now planes can start flying in and other tourists come by road through various borders. This is really encouraging going forwards," he said.
Zimbabwe will be on spotlight for leisure and business tourism especially after the Zimbabwe Tourism Authority (ZTA) through its Zimbabwe National Convention Bureau, made remarkable strides in promoting Meetings, Incentive Travel, Conferences and Exhibitions (MICE) by securing international membership with The Global Association of the Exhibition Industry (UFI).
Zimbabwe joins other leading African countries on this picturesque global stage, namely Rwanda and South Africa, with the UFI accreditation for exhibitions, according to ZTA and reopening borders will encourage conference organisers to consider the country for meetings.