Tourism in Zanzibar, badly affected in the past eight months following the outbreak of coronavirus pandemic, is slowly returning to normal at an impressive pace.
Many hotels which were closed for longtime have reopened while others are finalizing arrangements to do so.
Occupancy rates are inching back up and most of the hoteliers and tour operators interviewed by the Mail were confident that the situation will improve in the next few months.
The pandemic caused occupancy rates to nosedive and hotels to reduce staff and cut rates or close down.
“We went down from the top to the ground floor by the lift, but now we’ve been climbing the ladder and hope the situation will soon be back to normal, or even better,” said a hotel manager at Nungwi, north of Zanzibar.
The outbreak also badly affected tour operators, guides, artisans, taxi as well as those selling spices and food at small restaurants and parks, such as those at Forodhani and Darajani in Zanzibari city.
Tourists have in the past few months been flocking to Zanzibar in dozens as fears over the Covid-19 pandemic are vanishing and raising hopes for the country’s hard-hit tourism sector to recover.
An official of the Zanzibar office of the Chief Government Statistician, Abdulrauf Ramadhan, said 20,416 tourists visited Zanzibar in June, compared to 9,280 tourists who entered in May.
However, he said the number of tourists is higher compared to the same period (June) in 2020 where 353 tourists visited the Isles.
In June 2020 the government suspended tourism activities due to the Covid-19 outbreak.
He said the tourism industry continues to improve, although the pace is still somehow slow.
Ramadhan said that 56.8 percent of the tourists who arrived during the under reviewed period came from European countries, especially France which accounted for 10.9 percent of the total arrivals followed by Poland (10.3%), the United State (9.1%) while Japan record the least (0.1%).
He said 15,264 tourists passed through the airport and 5,152 through the Malindi port of whom 10,704 males and 9,712 females.
The total of 578,987 bed-spaces was available in June of which 182,068-beds were sold during the period representing a rate of 32.5 percent.
He added from January to June this year, Zanzibar received 188,798 tourists which is the increase of 19.8 percent compared with the same period last year.
Most of visitors were from Europe (79.2 percent) as Russia (36.0 percent) led for the Zanzibar tourism market.
Last year Zanzibar was estimated to serve a quarter of a million tourists but the goal was not realized due to the coronavirus outbreak.
However, Ramadhan said there was a hope that last year’s estimate will be overturned this year because many countries have lifted coronavirus response measures.
Last week Eurowings Discover Airbus A330-200 with more than 60 passengers on board landed at the Abeid Amani Karume International Airport for the first time.
Mussa Omar, a tour guide, anticipates that the tourism industry would soon return to normal because some countries like Italy and the United Kingdom had relaxed Covid-19 protective measures for its citizens.
“If the Italians will get back in groups everything will change, our lives will return to normal,” he said.
The global tourism industry has taken a significant hit because of the Covid-19 pandemic, with an estimated drop of $500 billion by 2020.