Chipo Katsidzira Business Correspondent
The current shortage of fuel being experienced in the country is negatively affected the tourism industry, a development which has resulted in reduced number of tourists visiting the Eastern Highlands.
Hospitality Association of Zimbabwe (HAZ) official Mr Leonard Bwanya said most resort areas in Manicaland are only accessible by road hence the fuel situation has a big impact on operations of most hospitality players.
He said the most affected resort areas are Mount Inyangani, Mutarazi Falls and Vumba Mountains.
“Fuel crisis is a major problem in the tourism sector and most people are failing to travel as they used to,” he said.
“Traffic to the Eastern Highlands is at a low and the number of people visiting is on its lowest.
Fuel shortage effects are beginning to show as people spend long hours in fuel queues and when they find it, very few would want to use that fuel to visit tourist attractions,” said Mr Bwanya.
Mr Bwanya said tourists were also not certain they would get fuel to return to their respective cities once they got to Manicaland.
“It is now impossible that someone can travel from Harare to see Mutarazi Falls when they know it would be difficult for them to get fuel for them to return to their home towns,” he said.
There have been calls from the tourism industry for Government to construct an airport in Mutare to cater to tourists who want to travel to the Eastern Highlands.
Government has since availed land for an airport which will be developed in due course. In the meantime, Government has authorised the refurbishment of the Grand Reef Aerodrome to cater for small aircraft and cargo planes.
Once operational, the airport will make it easier for tourist to travel to and from the province without the hassle of travelling by road.
It will also create an opportunity for players in the horticulture industry and other industries to transport their products to local and export markets.
Mr Bwanya said the industry was also faced with an electricity crisis due to the long hours of load shedding by the power utility, which were raising their operational costs as they had to run generators for more than 14 hours a day.
“The other challenge we are also facing as the tourism factor is power cuts, which has forced the tourism industry into further crisis,” Bwanya added.