Zimbabwe: COVID-19 Hotel Cancellations Hit African Sun

Hospitality group, African Sun, says it lost significant business after more than 31 000 room nights were cancelled following closure of its hotels due to the Covid-19 pandemic.

The pandemic, first detected in Wuhan, China last December, has caused severe harm to businesses across the globe with the travel and tourism industry being one of the hardest hit as economies imposed travel restrictions to limit the spread of the disease. In Zimbabwe, it was declared a national disaster on March 17, prompting businesses to take measures to contain the virus.

African Sun temporarily closed its 11 hotels and two casinos effective March 30, 2020, a date that also marked the beginning of a national lockdown in Zimbabwe.

As Government relaxed lockdown measures, African Sun also took a decision to reopen its hotels on a phased approach.

Under Phase one, four hotels that is Holiday Inn Harare, Holiday Inn Mutare, Holiday Inn Bulawayo and Great Zimbabwe Hotel were reopened on May 11, 2020 observing various health and safety measures as guided by World Health Organisation (WHO), InterContinental Hotels Group (IHG) and Government at its hotels.

During the first quarter, occupancy closed at 40 percent representing 2-percentage points increase from 38 percent recorded in the same quarter last year, despite the effects of the pandemic that had already started posing challenges for businesses across the globe.

During the quarter, room nights sold increased 4 percent to 54 972 from 52 617 reported in the comparable quarter last year. Business mix for the first quarter with regards to room nights was 67 percent local and 33 percent export. Export room nights fell 2 percent due to the early effects of Covid-19 which affected arrivals particularly in Victoria Falls properties. Domestic room nights, however, rose 8 percent, a growth that was driven by corporate and NGO business. Going forward, the group anticipates continued disruption to travel and tourism in the months ahead but is taking decisive action to protect the core of its business until the crisis passes and travel resumes.

Management expects domestic business largely driven by Government and non-governmental organisations programmes centred on Covid-19 health responses and hunger alleviation to resume immediately.

Said African Sun: "Taking into account the global trends, management expects international business to gradually resume starting from July as airlines rebuild their networks."

The World Travel and Tourism Council (WTTC) estimates that the Covid-19 pandemic could adversely impact travel and tourism by up to 25 percent this year, an equivalent of three months tourism activity.

According to the International Air Transport Association (IATA), Africa's air transport industry contributes up to $55,8 billion, which is 2,6 percent of Africa's GDP and supports 6,2 million jobs.

By March 11, African airlines had lost $4,4 billion in revenue due to fallout from the pandemic. -- Ebusinessweekly.com.

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