Zimbabwe’s tourism industry had been shut down since March.

By Rachel Chang
September 09, 2020

After shutting down its borders and suspending flights in March, Zimbabwe announced it will restart domestic flights on Thursday, Sept. 10, and international flights on Oct. 1, according to Reuters.

The move will be made in hopes of jumpstarting the African nation’s tourism industry — including one of the world’s biggest waterfalls, Victoria Falls, and the reserve Hwange National Park —  which shut down all attractions, hotels, and resorts for nearly six months since COVID-19 concerns began.

“It therefore comes as a very welcome decision that Cabinet has allowed all tourism activities that had remained shut down as part of the measures to contain the coronavirus pandemic, to now resume full operations,” Environment, Climate, Tourism, and Hospitality Industry Minister Mangaliso Ndlovu said last week, according to the  Zimbabwean newspaper The Herald. Popular activities including game drives, bungee jumping, boating, and helicopter rides can now resume operations.

Victoria Falls from above - Zambia and Zimbabwe
Credit: Getty Images

The government had declared a “national disaster” on March 27, implementing a nationwide lockdown on March 30. While some measures were eased, the lockdown was “extended indefinitely” on May 16, according to the U.S. Embassy in Zimbabwe. With borders closed to “all human traffic,” Zimbabwean nationals and permit holders are an exception, but they must abide by a strict 21-day self-quarantine rule.

To date, Zimbabwe has had 7,388 coronavirus cases and 218 deaths, as reported by the Johns Hopkins Coronavirus Resource Center.

Travelers will need to be tested before arrival. “All travelers will be required to have a PCR (polymerase chain reaction) COVID-19 clearance certificate issued by a recognized facility within 48 hours from the date of departure,” Reuters reported.

Tourism has been an essential part of Zimbabwe’s economy, as a roadmap to expand the industry to $6 billion by 2023 was revealed in November, according to the Zimbabwean news site 263 Chat. The sector could lose up to $1.1 billion with international arrivals dropping 70 to 87 percent, the acting chief executive of Zimbabwe Tourism Authority Givemore Chidzihdi, told the outlet in July.

The impact of the pandemic has hit hard, as some resorts and hotels have had to lay off workers, according to Reuters.

The decision comes as the nation announced last week it will be reopening schools starting Sept. 14 so students can take their final exams, but officials have alluded to the fact that students may not return fully until next year.