By Norma Tsopo
Government has moved to ‘protect customers’ in the face of skyrocketing hotel rates in Bulawayo in the wake of increasing accommodation demands for the Zimbabwe International Trade Fair (ZITF) 2019 by inviting homeowners to register their homes for approval in hosting guests.
Ministry of Environment, Tourism and Hospitality Industry Permanent Secretary Munesu Munodawafa said some operators were not being responsible and risked undoing the positive strides the country had made in being an attractive destination by pricing itself out of competition regionally.
The ministry expressed “grave concern” at the charges which have since triggered an “unpopular reaction” prompting government “for intervention by the authorities as we seek to protect the consumers while at the same time also promoting business…
“As a relief, the Ministry through the Zimbabwe Tourism Authority in collaboration with the ZITF Company have allowed people with suitable accommodation in their homes to avail this to interested visitors during the ZITF time, and that at reasonable rates.
“Those interested in providing such a service should contact the ZTA or the ZITF Offices in Bulawayo to register. The premises will be duly inspected for registration purposes,” Munodawafa said.
He said while market forces should be respected there was need to exercise restraint.
“Whilst it is an understandable and widely accepted notion that supply and demand determines the prices of goods and services, providers of services and goods should not take advantage of the customers.
“Price hikes should be within reasonable and justifiable levels. The kind of price increases being alleged in Bulawayo and said to be triggered by demand far outstripping supply are not justifiable.
“We expect the hospitality sector to be responsible and to exercise restraint while conducting their businesses in an ethical manner,” Munodawafa said.
Government said it is engagement with the Operators, Hospitality Association of Zimbabwe and the Tourism Business Council of Zimbabwe in an attempt to amicably resolve the problem as a matter of urgency.
Munodawafa said the development risks undoing the according of the country as the best status as a Sustainable Destination both in Africa and its international recognition as a must visit destination during the 2019.
He said it had managed to “surpass the highest tourism figures of 1999 to an unprecedented 2.5 million visitors in 2018.”
“We have also grown our tourism figures and we cannot dilute the positives garnered in the new dispensation, the second republic. We cannot price ourselves out of business; we must remain competitive with the region and international community in our pricing structure.
“This kind of pricing effectively works against our Domestic Tourism marketing efforts as ordinary Zimbabweans will not be able to afford their own tourism product.
Munodawafa said there is need for the sector to find a lasting solution to promote sustainable interest and investments into the accommodation sector across the country.