Salary cuts loom in tourism industry

By Luckmore Safuli in Victoria Falls
Faced with the mounting cancellations of bookings and a threat of substantial revenue losses, some tourism operators in Zimbabwe’s tourism capital Victoria Falls are proposing salary cuts and other drastic cost containment measures.
The Covid-19 pandemic has shaken the global travel and tourism sector which over the past few months has been recording an increase in numbers as evidenced by the 4% jump in international arrivals worldwide in 2019.
For Zimbabwe’s tourism capital Victoria Falls, the consequences of the Covid-19 induced cancellation of bookings has left the operators in a serious predicament.
Information gathered by ZBC News shows that some tour operators have since written to their staff informing them of around 50% salary cut while some have encouraged their employees to take unpaid annual leave.
As of the first week of March room occupancy for the destination was estimated at around 25 to 30 percent with projections of a further drop.
In a speech during the handover of a 27 seater bus donated by Shearwater Adventures to a local primary school, Employers’ Association for Tourism and Safari Operators president Clement Mukwasi implored tourism trade unions and national employment councils to suspend monthly contributions during the current challenging period.
“Tourism trade unions and national employment unions must show us that they have workers at heart by stopping the deductions up until we have passed this challenging period. In times of profit yes we can talk of the fees but the current situation calls for change in mindset,” he said.
Representatives of Shalom Kids Learning Centre and Shalom Ballers Volleyball Club applauded the tour operator for the donation and called for more measures to cushion the tourism sector during the current dire situation.
“We know times are hard given the Covid-19 induced cancellation of bookings but we have seen the company extending a generous hand despite the challenging environment,” he said.
Nearly all of the border town’s 37 000 residents directly or indirectly depend on the tourism industry which also supports a number of downstream industries.
It is not all gloomy, however, for the tourism industry as the country has remained a safe destination with no confirmed case of coronavirus. While some have cancelled the majority of those who had made bookings have postponed and are assessing the developments.