20 January 2017

Southern Africa: Zim Most Expensive Tourist Destination

Photo: UNESCO
The Victoria Falls.

Isdore Guvamombe — Zimbabwe is by far the most expensive tourist destination compared to other destinations in the Sadc region and beyond. But for the benefit of all and sundry, let me restrict this instalment to the Sadc region.

The effect of the high price regime has been that the country, despite being among the most attractive in the region, risks out-bidding itself through a prize regime that is deterrent to tourists.

In a global village as necessitated and dictated by the technology, tourists have many options to visit and such high prices certainly have a knock effect on Zimbabwe, as a priority.

Imagine the Zimbabwe Tourism Authority levy added to ZBC Radio and TV licence, then Zimbabwe Music Rights Association (Zimura), then Zimbabwe Revenue Authority (Zimra), the local authority, then Zinwa and then . . . and then . . . and then . . . They add up to 23. Where do you do business like this, without passing the cost on to the consumer?

There are too many taxes and as if that is not enough, the Government's introduction of 15 percent VAT on accommodation for foreign tourists last year further worsened things.

Victoria Falls, is a case in point on this one. Over the years, Zimbabwe has been losing tourists to Zambia, firstly, because our political climate was portrayed as unfavourable in the international community, secondly, because the Victoria Falls International Airport could not accommodate wide-bodied planes. Now we have sorted out our international image doing extremely well in perception management, and, we have expanded the Victoria Falls International Airport. That has made us begin to out-compete Zambia.

Before the Victoria Falls Airport tarmac even dries up, here we are, shooting ourselves in the foot by introducing a 15 percent VAT on accommodation for foreign tourists. But these are foreign tourists who have an option to stay in Livingston, Zambia or Chobe, Botswana.

Yes, the Zimbabwean side of the Victoria Falls gives the most spectacular view, the front side, compared to the unimpressive backside of the falls in Livingstone, but the effect has been that tourists stay in Zambia and visit Zimbabwe during the day. We don't need an economics graduate to tell us that the tourists are spending more money in Zambia through accommodation and a multifarious array of nocturnal activities, such as drinking binges, clubbing and braaing, while our hotel occupancy shrinks.

Suffice to say that the $20 they pay to see grandeur of the falls is nothing compared to what they spent in one night in Zambia. Most of the money is spent on accommodation and partying. That is where the money is. We are fast reducing Victoria Falls to a day town. We are killing the night life. We are shunning the money.

Again, we don't need an economist to tell us that we are already an expensive destination and adding another 15 percent is retrogressive.

Room prices in Zimbabwe are almost treble other countries and when you look at the standards, they might not correspond with the price regime.

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