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– NewsDay

THE Hospitality Association of Zimbabwe (HAZ) is set to engage government to negotiate for its members to be allowed to resume conference meetings while observing COVID-19 safety protocols.

In a bid to curb the spread of COVID-19, Vice-President and Health and Child Care minister Constantino Chiwenga a week ago announced a new set of COVID-19 containment regulations.

Under the new regulations, restaurants are not allowed to sell food to sit-in customers save for hotels and lodge restaurants.

Beerhalls and nightclubs remain closed with bottlestores operating from 10am to 4pm and retail outlets and other shops operating from 8am to 6pm.

All gatherings except for funerals are banned while companies have been directed to decongest workplaces by 50%.

Chiwenga directed that meetings should be held virtually.

HAZ president Clive Chinwada told NewsDay Business that the suspension of physical meetings sounded a death knell for the hoteliers.

He said the industry has lost significant business due to cancellations of hotel bookings for conferences and events, following the government’s promulgation of new COVID-19 pandemic mitigation measures.

“We, indeed, had quite a significant number of cancellations. Our industry is currently driven by local Mice (meetings, incentives, conferencing and exhibitions) activities as domestic leisure is mainly confined to the traditional national holiday calendar,”

Chinwada said.

“As such, without Mice the hospitality industry almost grinds to a halt. We are, therefore, exploring ways of engaging and working with the government in a way that ensures that meetings can still take place while guaranteeing the safety of patrons.”

“Some events have been allowed to go on while activities, mostly by non-governmental organisations, have almost stopped, so the occupancies are erratic in some places while others are very slow,”

he revealed

HAZ Victoria Falls chapter president Anald Musonza said the new COVID-19 pandemic mitigation measures have affected hotel occupancy which had started to show signs of recovery.

Following the announcement of new measures, Restaurant Operators Association of Zimbabwe (ROAZ) president Bongai Zamchiya pointed out that the regulations were threatening the livelihoods of restaurateurs, staff and suppliers.

Zamchiya said businesses could not survive on income from takeaways only as it was not enough to cover recurrent costs such as rentals, wages, refrigeration, security and statutory licences paid to government.

A survey carried out in February this year by ROAZ showed that takeaways contributed between 8% and 18% to most businesses’ revenue and this was not sustainable. Restaurants have either been closed or were in partial operation for the past 14 months.

The country’s tourism sector last year lost approximately US$1,1 billion in potential revenue due to COVID-19 travel restrictions that crippled the travel industry.

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