Attracting more foreign and domestic tourists makes a great deal of sense for Zimbabwe, as the country forges ahead with efforts to turn around the economy and create more jobs.
Given that tourism is a “low hanging fruit” the world over, the country stands to benefit immensely from this global industry, provided all enablers are put in place.
The wave of optimism since the coming in of the new political dispensation last November has added impetus, which has roused the entire tourism industry into action.
Working closely with the government through the Ministry of Tourism and Hospitality Industry, players in the sector have recently scaled up their marketing campaigns for destination Zimbabwe. Target is focused on increasing both domestic and foreign arrivals.
The Zimbabwe Tourism Authority (ZTA) is the lead agency in the various destination marketing processes while government and the private sector have been called upon to drive requisite infrastructure development such as transportation, accommodation facilities, information and communication technology, human capital development and security, among others.
Zimbabwe has set a target of about three million foreign arrivals this year, riding on renewed positive international sentiment, compared to about 2.4 million in 2017. There is a possibility these estimates could be exceeded, hence experts have warned that increased arrivals would likely overwhelm existing facilities.
Recent reports already indicate foreign tourist arrivals to Zimbabwe hit record highs between December last year and February this year and are expected to continue into next year, according to local tour operators. In December alone, Victoria Falls alone is said to have recorded 1,000 visitors per day and the trend continued into February.
President Mnangagwa is also on record saying more tourists were flocking to Zimbabwe, mainly in search of business opportunities under the new dispensation. Operators have also attributed positive sentiment to the removal of roadblocks that used to litter most of the major roads in the country. This emphasises the greater need for more investment towards improving capacity.
The Reserve Bank of Zimbabwe has since availed a package of US$15 million to support tourism development and pledged to prioritise the sector given its potential to attract foreign currency. Tourism earnings and diaspora remittances top the key sources of forex in the country, each contributing nearly US$1 billion annually, records show.
Given its rich and diverse tourism resource base, Zimbabwe has the potential to attract seven million foreign arrivals by 2025, which would be achieved through aggressive marketing strategies, says ZTA. To that end, Zimbabwe is leaving no stone unturned in its quest to generate more forex for the economy through tourism. Policy pronouncements by the President Mnangagwa-led government, which include re-engagements with the international community and revised investment policy, are anticipated to drive economic growth as well as lure increased tourist arrivals into the country. Giant hotelier, Rainbow Tourism Group (RTG) is upbeat about prospects for the sector and has already moved to position itself for anticipated gains.
“With the new dispensation mantra that ‘Zimbabwe is Open for Business’, and having rationalised and capitalised the company, RTG is poised for growth, taking advantage of the new opportunities,” group chairman Sijabuliso Biyam said.
Many opportunities are unfolding in different segments of the wider tourism industry, he added, including the areas of conferencing, business travel as well as leisure activities segment. The meetings, incentives, conferences and exhibitions (MICE) tourism is fast-gaining currency across the globe given its ability to attract large groups of people and is usually planned well in advance for a particular purpose. ZTA has acknowledged the significance of the model and said it was engaging key organisations for partnerships in promoting MICE tourism.
Similarly, RTG says it is already developing plans to fully capitalise on the existing opportunities and views the increase in activities in Victoria Falls, for instance, as a welcome development that could steer the company’s expansion into that region.
“Full exploitation of various information communication technology platforms are set to contribute significantly to revenue growth as the group moves to fully exploit the digital space,” said Biyam. The hotel group recently launched its “RTG Gateway Mobile Application”, which is set to revolutionise the way business is done on the local tourism landscape.
As part of the domestic tourism campaign strategy, the ZTA has since January this year been conducting countrywide stakeholder engagements aimed at developing an understanding and agreements to solutions that affect the tourism industry. During the meetings, industry players were positive and came up with numerous suggestions on how the domestic tourism drive should be implemented.
“An action matrix on ideas generated during the workshop is now available to be implemented by the industry, ZTA, Ministry of Tourism and Hospitality, government departments and the media just to mention a few,” ZTA spokesperson, Godfrey Koti, said.
A fortnight ago, the tourism authority hosted a 12-member delegation of journalists from the United Kingdom with the main objective of profiling the Zimbabwe story on different media platforms across Europe. The tour followed a recent re-engagement mission in the UK by the Minister of Tourism and Hospitality Industry, Prisca Mupfumira who conducted a series of roundtable meetings with the travel industry, Diasporans and airlines.
The minister also conducted interviews with influential media among them BBC radio and TV stations and invited them to come to Zimbabwe and get firsthand experience and real perception about the country. Last week, the country hosted Nigerian tour operators, who have since committed to helping market the Zimbabwe destination after they were impressed with industry standards in the country.
The Parks and Wildlife Management Authority, which manages key tourism attractions around the country, has also come on board. ZimParks is a critical catalyst and enabler of leisure tourism in Zimbabwe, hence, the synergies between the two entities will enable both parastatals to achieve their mandates, said Koti. In that regard, the ZTA and ZimParks have agreed on co-branding on both print and electronic media and website linkages have already been done.
The campaign further involves joint schools engagements to promote the culture of travel tourism with the ZTA as well as discussions on the upgrading of standards of accommodation within the parks estate. In order to give citizens an opportunity to visit tourist resorts in the country, ZimParks is working on a proposal for a free day into the parks estate.
The National Museums and Monuments Zimbabwe also runs a programme “Heritage in Focus” every Monday on national television, as part of joint publicity initiatives that also cover road shows.
The Civil Service Bureau has been identified as a partner in launching the Domestic Tourism Campaign. Under the banner “Fly now, pay later”, all civil servants and Zimbabweans that can show proof of regular income will enjoy the benefits of flying and paying for their tickets after they have already travelled.
The ZTA has also engaged an advertising agency to produce a high-quality destination video, which will be used to promote the destination, create awareness of what the destination has to offer and to educate the public about the tourism products and services on offer in Zimbabwe. A destination video is a critical marketing tool for destination marketing.