Chimanimani — Five months after a devastating tropical cyclone ripped through south-eastern Manicaland killing more than 400 and leaving some 40 000 homeless as well as trail of destruction, the tourism industry in this part of Zimbabwe is slowly picking up the pieces.
Chimanimani and Chipinge districts bore the brunt of Cyclone Idai that left over a thousand people dead in neighbouring Mozambique.
A survey conducted by NewZimbabwe.com in the Cyclone hit areas recently indicated most lodges, hotels and cottages were fully booked and locals in the low density suburbs taking advantage converting their houses to accommodate visitors awed by the effects of the tropical storm and its aftermath.
Besides general visitors, the areas are recording brisk business from aid workers bring support to affected villages.
Chimanimani Hotel in particular was turned into a mini-heaven as victims sought shelter at the facility for free.
A hotel receptionist confirmed that the hotel rooms were fully booked and there were few openings "here and there".
"Our rooms are fully booked but at times we have some openings," said the receptionist.
Another lodge, Frog and Fern was also fully booked but was charging US$30 per night while Kweza Lodge was also fully booked.
A worker at Frog and Fern lodge told this publication that they were recording brisk business and still accepting foreign currency despite a recent government ban.
"We are charging US$30 per night but we are fully booked for now. We are still skeptical about charging local currency because we are still to measure its stability," said the worker who declined to be named.
At Hilltop Lodge, charges are both in local and foreign currency. The place was also fully booked with aid agencies providing relief to Cyclone Idai victims.
Visitors and hoteliers interviewed said they would rather pay in hard currencies or liquidate what they have on the parallel market.
"There is no way that I'm going to dispose of my hard currency at the interbank rate to buy things that are quoted at US-RTGS black-market rates. It's absurd.
"Local US dollar prices were coming down and it was convenient with everyone able to earn whatever foreign currency was needed for imports," said one hotelier who spoke on condition of anonymity.
Hospitality Association of Zimbabwe (HAZ) vice president Clive Chinwada expressed concern over the lack of confidence in the local currency and the absence of key fundamentals.
"We take note that government has always indicated that they would announce and introduce local currency once economic fundamentals permit. As it stands, and as an industry, we feel that there are still gaps in both the fundamentals and the confidence," said Chinwada.
He said government had to work hard and have a lot of discipline if people and businesses are to have confidence in the reborn dollar.
"It is therefore imperative that government works hard to ensure confidence in the new currency by being disciplined and diligent," said Chinwada.
Chinwada however said the sector would comply with government regulations but engage where there is need for clarity and refining.
"There are still other aspects of the instrument (Statutory Instrument 142) that will also require clarification and both the players in the tourism and hospitality industry await further guidance on how to proceed. For instance, is it illegal for an internationally funded organisation to settle their obligations with the hotels in hard currency where this is voluntary on the part of the consumer?"