By Byron Mutingwende
Stakeholders in tourism are exploring ways of coming up with a strategy to act as a roadmap to develop the sector as an important pillar of the economy. The meeting, held at the Harare International Conference Centre on 8 February 2018, was graced by Vice President General (Rtd) Dr. Constantino Guveya Dominic Chiwenga who was the Guest of Honour and Honourable Priscah Mupfumira, the minister of tourism and hospitality industry among other experts.
In his keynote address VP Chiwenga said the contribution of tourism to the economy was immense and its success required that we have a strategy in place.
“Tourism is all about travel and one can read many pages of this world by visiting places. It only requires that as we plan our strategies, we must ensure that we have the best chapters of the whole book for travellers to take interset in destination Zimbabwe,” VP Chiwenga said.
The sentiments were shared by Honourable Mupfumira who said as the consultative process was underway, there was need to craft a National Strategy that espouses pride and ownership of our culture.
“We must in the nearest future, receive testimonies from tourists like Queen Sheba, who confessed to Solomon that, “The report I heard in my own country about your achievements and your wisdom is true. But I did not believe these things until I came”. As Zimbabwe, we too can create great stories out of our rich heritage that will move travellers from afar to visit our beautiful country to tell of its goodness. Such works of greatness require committed planning, hence the launch of this consultative process. Without a clear strategy, the tourism industry becomes unorganised and travellers often shun dis-organised destinations. The numbers of tourists decrease and profits decrease,’ Hon Mupfumira said.
Tourism is undoubtedly a key sector of the economy that has been contributing significantly to national income, foreign exchange and employment generation. According to the United Nations World Tourism Organisation (UNWTO), tourism accounts for one in every 10 jobs globally. Furthermore, the UNWTO forecasts that by the year 2030, internationally, annual tourist arrivals are expected to grow from 58 million to 134 million per year.
Currently, Zimbabwe is earning over $800 million from tourism activities and the sector employs around 300 000 people directly and indirectly. Projections of tourist arrivals are expected to grow from the 2, 1 million registered in 2016 to over 2, 5 million in 2018.
Dr. Emmanuel Fundira, the President of the Safari Operators Association of Zimbabwe has been found to be resilient in terms of creating income.
“Tourism is a tool for reducing poverty and presents an opportunity for economic diversification as well as the preservation of our cultural and natural heritage. It also offers us an opportunity for income generation,” Dr. Fundira said.
In her presentation about tourism performance in Zimbabwe, the Managing Director of the Zimbabwe Tourism Authority (ZTA) said in 2017, there were 1, 3 billion tourists arrivals. Arrivals into Southern Africa currently account for only 2% of global arrivals while the average growth rate for Zimbabwe has been 6% over the past 5 years. Zimbabwe only receives 12% of the arrivals within the region. It is third in terms of countries with the most tourist arrivals after South Africa and Botswana.
“Zimbabwe is largely an add-on destination packaged with Botswana (55.3%), South Africa (50.3%) and Namibia (21.7%). 30.4% of tourists for holiday or leisure on package do not spend a night in Zimbabwe. 58.9% of those who stay spend 2 to 3 nights in the country. Countries that are packaged with Zimbabwe exempted visas for most of the overseas source markets bur we haven’t done that yet. The National Museums and Monuments received 230, 418 visitors, of which 207,370 (90%) were domestic. The national parks received 692 674 visitors with 316,910 being domestic (46%),” Zirebwa said.
There has been an increase in occupancy rates (75%+) in Victoria Falls. There were over 25000 additional passengers seats into Victoria Falls following the expansion of the airport.
“The growing usage of Internet and social media in marketing and business can not be ignored. 34.6% of visitors to Zimbabwe get their information about the destination from Internet and social media. Although Zimbabwe has an Internet penetration rate of 49.5% the use of internet and social media in business is still limited,” Zirebwa added.
Renowned hospitality industry player, Dr. Shingi Munyeza said a lack of cohesion had caused untold pain to the tourism sector. He urged stakeholders to look at the determinants of location and attractions like the Victoria Falls as regional assets.
“According to the UNWTO, major attractions have become regional. It should not be a problem that South Africa markets the Victoria Falls better than Zimbabwe. We should make our destination marketing policy, systems, branding and vision sustainably competitive,” Dr. Munyeza said.
Dr. Munyeza added that investing in infrastructure makes our tourist attractions more accessible. This includes building of better roads and railway lines as well as hotels. Tourism is also sensitive to politics and there is need for guarding against making our politics toxic and polarised.
Paul Matamisa, the Chief Executive Officer of the Zimbabwe Council of Tourism said there was need to improve the salaries of the people so that they would have extra income to spend on tourism. He called for establishment of prepaid schemes for government workers as a strategy to promote domestic tourism.
“It is also important to come up with educational programmes for people to understand what tourism is and can offer. It should be a subject in school so that our students grow up with a culture of tourism. The ministry of tourism should have at least a tourism building in each and every town,” Matamisa said.
Tendai Madziwanyika, the Chief Executive Officer of the Rainbow Tourism Group said the tourism vision and strategy would enable the country to move in one direction towards the development of the sector. Madzivanzira reiterated the need to ensure the tourism sector would offer unique value to tourists through appropriately packaged products, leveraged on the distinct advantages of Zimbabwe’s natural and artificial attractions.