Hotel standards in Zimbabwe have gone down over the years but the country is working hard to get back to international best practice, tourism chief Karikoga Kaseke has said.
He was speaking a press conference held at the Victoria Falls International Airport with UK-based travel writers who recently visited the country to explore its tourism products.
Concern about falling standards in the sector was also expressed by Reserve Bank of Zimbabwe governor John Mangudya who lamented that facilities were saying “filthy” as some of them “don’t even change linens”.
“I won’t say which hotels, but the beds are old, the sheets are old; I think they have not been changed because they are smelling too much cigarette with bed-sheets often smelling of cigarette smoke,” the RBZ boss said in January this year.
Quizzed about the issue by the visiting journalists who were hosted by some of the best hotels in the country, Kaseke – who heads the Zimbabwe Tourism Authority – conceded that stars had since fallen off the mantelpieces in the sector.
“The first thing is admitting is that we are not doing the right thing (and) by admitting that we are not up to scratch, half the job is done,” he said.
“But if we (choose to be) in denial, then it will take us a lot of time to rectify those problems. And we are a very quick nation in terms of learning.”
Kaseke blamed the last two-decades of frosty relations between Harare and western countries for the fall in standards.
The subsequent economic crisis so millions of Zimbabweans leave the country to escape the resultant hardships while visitor numbers from Europe and the America’s also declined.
The ZTA boss explained; “Why did standards go down?
“You know, when you don’t have tourists, and people are not serving anyone, standards are bound to deteriorate because there is no one to serve.
“(Again) people left this country and they are giving their services everywhere else. In South Africa, the person who is serving you on the front desk is a Zimbabwean, the one serving you your food is a Zimbabwean, the desk manager is a Zimbabwean.”
Kaseke expressed confidence that the country would soon catch up with international best practice.
“You must forgive us; we will catch up and I will tell you what, we don’t need a year to take the people through the ropes so that they understand what needs to be done,” he said.
“Zimbabweans are very skilled and these skills flew out because of our problems but now that Zimbabwe is back, and it is back, we hope that with time our people (abroad) will realise that it’s time to come back and contribute to the development of the nation; and they will come back with those skills which they have enhanced abroad, they are far much more skilled than they were when they left.
“We have got a lot of training to do, a lot of things to do to improve our standards and I can rest assure that come September, you will see a different scenario.”