Tourists opt to sleep in buses, coaches, churches

By Freedom Mupanedemo

THE majority of tourists coming to Zimbabwe are shunning conventional hotels and other hospitality facilities opting instead to sleep in coaches, buses or cars in a bid to cut on accommodation costs, a new report has revealed.

According to the Zimbabwe Visitor Exit Survey Report 2015/16 released recently, the deterring charges by local conventional hotels and lodges have also seen some tourists making arrangements to stay with their relatives during their stay in the country.

The report, which covers a period from July 2015 to June 2016, however, shows that the total expenditure by tourists into Zimbabwe is tottering towards nine-digit numbers with visitors spending over US$800 million between the said period.

“Visitors into Zimbabwe spent over US$800 million in the period July 2015 to June 2016 with the bulk of them coming to visit friends and relatives,” read part of the report, which was released at a local hotel in Harare recently.

The report, which was compiled by the Zimbabwe National Statistics Agency in conjunction with the Ministry of Tourism and Hospitality Industry was financed by the African Development Bank. It is a step towards the country’s setting up of a Tourism Satellite Account.

According to the report, the number of people who visited Zimbabwe during the period were 2 106 975 with each visitor spending an average of US$385 per stay.

“83.7 percent of visitors spent US$500 or less, while 41.8 percent spent US$50 or less during their stay.

“The highest expenditure was on food and beverages, which accounted for 28 percent, while accommodation gobbled 18 percent. Visitors from Oceania region were the highest spenders at US$1,354, followed by those from Europe with an average expenditure of US$909. The least spenders were visitors from Africa, with an average expenditure of US$310,” reads part of the report.

The report shows that the majority of tourists preferred to spend most of their time imbibing in bars and night clubs rather than booking commercial accommodation.

“About 33 percent of visitors either stayed with friends or relatives while conventional accommodation such as hotels, lodges, chalets and camps accounted for only 22 percent of all the accommodation used by the visitors.

“Forty-two percent of visitors did not utilise any commercial accommodation or relatives’ accommodation and instead chose to sleep in coaches/buses, trucks, cars and churches, thus cutting costs,” says the report.

The report says the major source market of visitors was the African region, which accounted for 80.7 percent, of the total visitors, a figure that could be a pointer as to why most of these tourists opted to stay with relatives than booking a commercial hotel.

“Although the proportion of visitors from African countries was the highest (80.7 percent) their average length of stay was the lowest, 7.6 nights. Visitors from Zambia (37.4 percent), South Africa (16.3 percent), Malawi (29.3 percent) and Botswana (3.8 percent) did not spend any money in Zimbabwe, which agrees with findings that the majority of visitors merely visited the country during the day while booked at some neighbouring countries,” the report further stated.

Harare, had the highest number of visitors at 29.1 percent, edging out the country’s major tourist resort, the Victoria Falls, which recorded. (27.9 percent). Zimbabwe’s second largest city, Bulawayo, had 22.6 percent.

The highest average expenditure was by visitors from South Africa at US$1,081 followed by those from Denmark US$936.

Visitors from the United Kingdom spent US$857 while those from Australia gobbled US$848 with those from the United States of America spending US$800.

Commenting on the statistics, tourism players said there was an urgent need to re-look the pricing regime in order to attract tourists into conventional accommodation.

“It has been said now and then that our hotel accommodation pricing is a bit higher when compared to those in the region. We need to take this a step forward and implement all the new ideas and intelligence gathered if we are to attract tourists back into commercial accommodation,” said president of the Employers Association for Tours and Safari Operators, Clement Mkwasi.

Mkwasi said for a long time, Zimbabwe has been regarded an elitist tourist destination but with tourism becoming a major pillar for any economy, there was need for players to come up with new strategies that accommodate all and sundry.

“Zimbabwe has been largely an elitist tourist destination where only those tourists with a lot of money to spend come to occupy very expensive hotel rooms. What we need to realise is that with the government’s look East policy, the country has been getting a lot of tourists from Asia.

“Culturally, these tourists from Asian countries do not want to spend much on accommodation because they don’t earn in US dollars. What needs to be done is to come up with a pricing regime that accommodates everyone, including backpackers,” he said.

Another tourism guru, George Manyumwa, said there were a number of pushing factors that make accommodation in Zimbabwe remain relatively high.

“Tourism players have a whole lot of levies to settle and as anyone in business, we need to remain afloat. What we have been doing for the last two years is to try and lobby Government to reduce the number of levies that one has to settle before running a hotel. We are still pushing hard and this would be the starting point if we are to reduce accommodation prices in Zimbabwe. This will definitely bring positive results, improving the number of hotel occupancy,” he said.

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March 2017
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