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Covid-19 chokes Bulawayo businesses

by Staff reporter
23 Mar 2020 at 05:31hrs | Views
BULAWAYO businesses that were pinning their fortunes on the Independence Day celebrations and the annual Zimbabwe International Trade Fair (ZITF) next month are counting their losses after the major events were shelved by Government as a precautionary measure against the coronavirus pandemic.

Bulawayo had been chosen for the first time since the country attained independence in 1980 to host the first major main celebrations outside Harare on 18 April. Three days later the city was supposed to hold its biggest annual business event, ZITF, one of the most lucrative times for business as thousands of visitors descend on the city.

The Independence Day's main celebrations had been scheduled to take place at Barbourfields Stadium and thousands of people from across the country were expected to throng the city while ZITF, which was supposed to run from 21 to 25 April is a perennial crowd puller with both locals and international visitors gracing the exhibition.

Businesses usually benefit from spillovers. A number of businesspeople and captains of industry, who spoke to Sunday News Business, however, said they were fully behind the postponement of the Independence Day celebrations and the ZITF following the pronouncement by President Emmerson Mnangagwa last week to ensure the country guards against the coronavirus (Covid-19) outbreak, although it has dampened the anticipated massive returns by most businesses in the city.

Association for Business in Zimbabwe (Abuz) chief executive officer Mr Victor Nyoni said the postponement of the two events has denied most struggling businesses an opportunity to temporarily revive their waning fortunes.

"The postponement of the two events comes as a huge disappointment to the Bulawayo business community as they were highly anticipating them to bring business and to make things worse, preparations for the events were already underway with hotels having started making bookings, restaurants had already began stocking food stuffs and basically everyone was ready to go," said Mr Nyoni.

Confederation of Zimbabwe Retailers vice-president Mr Zak Hawa said this was a huge blow to players in the retail sectors as they normally maximise on such events especially the ZITF.

"The trade fair is an important event for Matabeleland region as many stakeholders converge to attend and this affords retailers an opportunity to enjoy increased sales. With the event having been postponed retailers will not attain the much-anticipated sales. This becomes a massive loss economically that will hurt businesspeople. However, we are optimistic that this phase will pass and the event will be rescheduled," he said.

Hospitality Association of Zimbabwe president Mr Clive Chinwanda said although the decision of the Government to shelve ZITF was commendable, it had adverse impact on the hospitality as the event was one of the hoteliers' perennial cash cow.

"The postponement of ZITF is understandable, as it is critical at this point to protect the citizenry from the possibility of Covid-19 finding its way into our cities and the country at large. The postponement of the two events has however, come as a huge blow to players in Bulawayo as this is traditionally the city's largest event that sees hotels and lodges attaining 100 percent occupancy . . . ," said Mr Chinwanda.

He hinted that Government should start engaging industry to ascertain ways of assisting various sectors whose operations would have been affected by the outbreak of Covid-19.

"Conversations have to start on how Government can assist affected sectors of the economy in line with what other international Governments are doing otherwise there is going to be a massive carnage on jobs and the impact to the economy will be tantamount to a bloodbath," said Mr Chinwanda.

During ZITF time most hotels and lodges are fully booked and some visitors are accommodated in houses. During the time rates for accommodation can go up as high as 100 percent as the hospitality industry cashes in on demand.

Source - sundaynews