Shaping the future of Tourism
Ripping off the Band-aid
It would be remiss of me to look at the future of tourism, and how to shape the future of tourism without looking at the problems that the industry is facing.
The Travel and Tourism industry in Zimbabwe faces many other challenges apart from the current COVID-19. There have been several complaints within the domestic travel and tourism industry. The local customer has accused the Tourism Organisations for charging too much; and they have snapped at the Tourism Board for not ensuring that prices are kept low –meanwhile the market, the local people, have been blasted by all kinds of marketing efforts forcing them to travel and have pride in their country and destinations.
The Zimbabwean tourism industry is operating in an environment that has people who have been battered and bruised. The tourism industry is meant to be an entertainment industry, but it’s very hard to go out and have a good party if you are ill. Whatever it is, on an individual, family or community, tribe or ethnicity level that has led to the bruising, has led people to lack pride in what is theirs; lack of ownership of what is theirs and also created rifts that have resulted in the disunity of the community and in some cases an identity crisis.
Zimbabwe Tourism relies a great deal on International Tourism. This means that a pandemic such as COVID 19 will leave the industry in the gutters. Zimbabwe has been through a number of difficulties, politically,economically and socially which have crippled the domestic market. A while back the IMF reported that Zimbabwe has the second largest informal economy in the world. Approximately 70 -85% of the working population are informally employed. The Civil Service makes up about 80% of the remaining 15% to 30% of the formally employed people. The lowest paid civil servant is earning roughly RTGS2500. Tourism organisations can charge in USD whilst people earn RTGS. This leaves the majority of the people who should be travelling living from hand to mouth with no disposable income for travel. Now in the wake of COVID 19 – more informal jobs have been lost and those who were informally employed would have lost a month’s worth of income, removing travel for tourism as an option for them altogether.
Regardless of the state of the economy, Domestic tourism has been quite difficult for Zimbabweans because of accessibility of the products. Not only are costs high but physical accessibility to the destinations is also difficult. There are certain places that cannot be visited unless one has their own vehicle or arranged transport, sometimes that vehicle needs to be a 4×4 vehicle. Very few, tourism related public transportation systems are available to tourism destinations. As a result, people who would want to travel then choose not to travel.
There is very little visibility of marketing and promotion of destinations locally. Most tourism organisations promote directly to their market and for a number of organisations, this market is mainly an international market. Only the top destinations in the country are well known in a country that is branded “a World of Wonders”.
So if you speak of tourism to an average Zimbabwean, what comes to mind is Victoria Falls, Kariba, for some Great Zimbabwe, Matopos etc, the big names. But that is not all Zimbabwe has to offer. Some marketing efforts have been made by individuals in their personal capacity on social media and even though it seems like it has made some impact, the sphere of influence is not diverse. Particularly for people who are not on social platforms. The greater part of the market, which should be reached is not reached. This gap has also crippled the effectiveness of the domestic market.
Perhaps too, tourism organisations need to think of diversifying the products and services on offer on the Zimbabwean tourism market. Offer more entertainment that caters to all people; offer a variety of activities that cut across seasonality within the travel industry and in this instance, entertainment and activities that can withstand calamity of sorts.
Healing for Tourism
There is hope yet.
Though there are a multitude of problems, in the coming blogs, I will be going back to basics and sharing what I term Backyard Tourism. Years ago, before travelling got a title and before the boom of transportation, people entertained themselves with activities that were available locally. Perhaps as we wait to gain confidence in travel far and wide, with borders remaining shut let us look at what is in our backyards.
I am privilege to have a back yard with more than 1 game park. One of the game parks is a Rhino reserve. In addition to that, there is a national monument and Anglican shrine where over 30 000 people gather every year. Once in a while Vintage car shows are held and there are countless fairs and farmers’ markets and concerts. What’s in your backyard? How much do you know about what is in your backyard? I encourage everyone to look at their backyard and share information, you will be amazed at the wealth of knowledge, history and culture right under your nose,that comes at no cost. All hope is not lost.
To be continued….