Strong US dollar stifling tourism sector

By Norma Tsopo
MUTARE- Local tourism growth is being stifled by overpricing on the back of a strong US dollar which has made the destination uncompetitive in the Southern African region, a senior hotelier has said.

Golden Peacock Villa Hotel Beverages Manager Willard Madhombiro
Golden Peacock Villa Hotel senior official Willard Madhombiro

Golden Peacock Villa Hotel senior official Willard Madhombiro said the hyperinflationary environment that preceded the adoption of the greenback had given locals a culture of inflating their goods and services against use of a currency that was stronger than any of Zimbabwe’s neighbours.
“Manicaland’s tourism industry has been supported by South Africa but the fall in the rand against a currency that has generally been undervalued here has made us doubly expensive,” he said.
He said the handling of the US dollar has cost the country regional tourists.
“It’s high time we give the US dollar its actual value…it buys less here than in the US itself. Maybe its because we still emerging from a hyperinflationary environment where we had become used to high prices but this is the US dollar which is currently gaining against all the major global currencies.
“We just need consensus to give it its proper value,” Madhombiro said.
He said while many local hotel rooms were averaging $100 per night one could get a descent hotel in South Africa charging less than half making Zimbabwe an expensive tourism destination.
He however said there is growing hope for a lowering of prices to make the country attractive again through efforts to resuscitate local industry.
“If we produce sufficient products locally we will soon see a huge slash in prices,” he said.
“I believe in a few years we will see more companies coming on board. With more companies there will be more competition which will work well for us as there will be a wider choice of products to pick from and an increase in quality accompanied by a fall in prices.”
He said the push to produce locally would also make food and beverages being offered by the hospitality industry healthier because of the country’s policies against genetically modified organisms (GMOs).
“I’m sure that if our agricultural sector is productive again we will see an improvement in the quality of food because most international visitors appreciate food that is not genetically modified because it’s healthier,” Madhombiro said.