[By Edwin Mbulo in Mongu]
THERE is no sense in continuing to punish the hospitality industry after what has already been done due to COVID-19, says a hospitality expert.
Mongu’s Country Lodge manager, Michael Mwanawasa says the lodge initially had 50 employees but has been forced to downsize to 20 which figure is also under threat due to COVID-19 restrictions.
In an interview, Mwanawasa said hotels, lodges and guest houses have a multiplier effect on the economy.
“The hospitality industry is so strict with COVID-19 regulations because we know that just one case can ruin the sector. We are professionals and we understand the pandemic better,” he said. “Restrictions towards the hospitality industry need to be eased. We are not a bar…I would say there is no sense to continue to punish the sector other than what has already been done.” Mwanawasa said the COVID-19 has greatly disrupted the hospitality industry forcing many to scale down on staffing levels.
“We have gone through three stages, the first was a total shutdown because we did not understand it. So we as Country Lodge lost 50 per cent of our workforce and about 70 per cent of our income. Then there was the easing of restrictions but that was also stopped and now we are at a stage where all workshops have been stopped. 90 per cent of our business is dependent on workshops and that we have been told not to hold so we are back to square one,” he said. “Now we are at a point where if within 30 days the government does not rescind the decision on workshops, we will again be forced to cut down on workforce which is already at 50 per cent to about 15 per cent because we can’t sustain our overheads with the existing conditions.”
Mwanawasa added that international tourist arrivals into Mongu from Lusaka or Namibia have stopped.
He said the fish industry has also been greatly affected because lodges can no longer get the stocks they used to buy from marketeers.
Mwanawasa also revealed that Country Lodge did not benefit from the so-called COVID-19 relief fund.
He said if anything the 40-room lodge was only assisted to fill in forms and never received any funding to cushion its business.
Mwanawasa said it would take some time for the hospitality industry to get back to 100 per cent operations.