Zimbabwe’s tourist arrivals for the first quarter 2016 increased by 16% to 450 572 compared to 387 557 in 2015 same period driven by increased arrivals from all source regions except for Oceania.
Zimbabwe Tourism Authority (ZTA) highlighted that though there was an increase in tourist arrivals into the country, not all of them ended up in hotels, many of them especially those from Mainland Africa resorted to very cheap sources of accommodation in lodges as well as friends and relatives.
In the quarter, arrivals from mainland Africa increased by 11% to 380 790 from 343 644 in 2015 with most African countries with the exception of South Africa, Zambia, DRC and Tanzania recording increases during Quarter.
Arrivals from South Africa and DRC fell marginally 2% and 4% respectively, whilst Zambia and Tanzania fell substantially 16% and 20% respectively and this was largely a result of currency depreciation against the US Dollar which is the main trading currency in Zimbabwe.
European arrivals into Zimbabwe rose 28% to 27 433 from 21 496 in 2015 and the major European countries Benelux, France, Germany Spain, Austria recorded increases except for Britain and Ireland which fell by 10%.
The fringe European markets also registered decreases, thus Portugal 30%, Switzerland 21%, Nordic Countries 14% and Italy 10%.
On other hand, tourist arrivals from the Americas increased by 120% during the quarter which had 22 620 compared to 10 294 arrivals in 2014 and ZTA says the impressive growth was buoyed by the United States.
In terms of accommodation, the national average hotel room occupancy rate decreased to 36% from 38%.
Harare had the highest average room occupancy rate of 53% followed by Victoria Falls, Midlands, Mutare, Vumba and Nyanga.
ZTA says the 53% for Harare was achieved through promotions on room rates offered by major hotel groups otherwise the occupancies could have been lower.
“These promotions resulted in increased utilisation of accommodation facilities by domestic tourists in Harare more than in other regions.”
However, even with such promotions, Harare experienced a 1 % decline in the first Quarter of 2016 compared with the same period in 2015 and this was attributed to the current harsh economic climate which has resulted in government, private sector and NGO’s implementing austerity measures to reduce operating costs.
Victoria Falls had the second highest room occupancy rate but experienced a 2 percentage points decline in the first quarter of 2016 and this negative growth was a result of reduced utilisation of accommodation by foreign tourists.
Compared to other regions Beitbridge recorded 4% increase from the figure recorded during the same period in 2015 as a result of reduced capacity through the closure of Holiday Inn Express hotel which was the second largest hotel after Beitbridge Rainbow Hotel, contributing 24% of hotel rooms in Beitbridge.
This closure resulted in hotel rooms available decreasing, causing the occupancy percentage to increase.
Mutare and Masvingo recorded the worst growth of -7% each compared to the rest of the regions largely on the harsh economic environment prevailing in the country that has adversely affected domestic tourism which is the tourism backbone of these two regions.
The ZTA said with the deepening harsh economic environment in the country, the contribution of the domestic market is likely to decrease drastically.
“In turn, this is going to further affect the ability of hotels to maintain good standards in their facilities as domestic market contribute significantly to their businesses averaging 35%.”