There are a number of actions that Zimbabwe and the industry can do in order to achieve these targets. A combination of planning and energy between public and private sector is required, and a major roadshow and promotional campaign to all historic key source markets and new emerging markets would benefit the industry tremendously.
Both of the efforts highlighted should have clarity, current facts, figures, imagery and information about the destination of Zimbabwe as a whole. This needs to be without cloudiness of the political stigma and the perception that is currently portrayed to the world. The industry has to solve this, and the way to do is to engage in the source markets, with open transparency and honesty about who we are and what we offer in terms of products and standards as a destination as a whole.
What are some of the challenges standing in the way of tourism growth to Zim? How can these challenges be overcome?
The first key issue facing the growth of tourism is political settlement. With the referendum behind us and elections due this year, we should see our country moving towards much more stability.
The second, from a pure tourism point of view, is that the Zimbabwe Tourism Authority (the marketing and promotional body for the industry) needs more resources and support. This could come in many forms including financial resources, skills and also technology in order to better access the way that modern world researches, communicates about and books leisure travel these days.
The UNWTO has said that Zimbabwe needs to address visa problems. Are visas currently a problem for tourists arriving in Zimbabwe? Whilst all countries have some degree of control via Visa process, it is my experience that it is the administration and application process that is usually to blame for complaint and annoyance and negative feedback for visitors. Transit Visas in particular seem to cause unnecessary burden of time, paperwork and usually cost to travellers, who may only be in an airport building for two hours or so, yet still have to obtain a visitor’s visa.
In summary, we need the long discussed and seemingly approved “SADC Uni-visa” sooner rather than later to facilitate much easier regional travel. This would negate the need for a transit Visa, and be yet another potential obstacle or negative removed from the travel scene in this region. We all need the tourism numbers to grow, and must create as welcoming, efficient and seamless immigration and control environment as possible.
Have you noticed intra-regional travel is a trend in the past few years, and is it popular with both international and local travellers?
This could be a strong and advantageous feature of Southern Africa. Our region has an incredible amount to offer to visitors. Victoria Falls in particular is a ‘hub’ of activity, sitting centrally within the concentric circles. Within a 425km radius of Victoria Falls, there are 30,000 beds available, 25 national parks, seven international airports, no game barriers – spread over five different countries.
We know that many of our travellers are averaging three countries on their trips, which highlights the intra-regional travel taking place on a country level. In addition, the national circuits that are offered are becoming increasingly popular, including destinations such as Victoria Falls, Hwange National Park and Matobo within Zimbabwe alone. As Zimbabwe is welcomed back into the main stream of tourism again, this type of travel is gaining a lot more exposure and value for money for the client.
Yes, there are still obstacles with visa and passport issues. However, we believe that the SADC ‘uni-visa’ is further advanced, allowing a visitor to buy one visa for all SADC countries. This incentive was originally planned to be in place by UNWTO in August 2013.
Throughout our communications and websites – we aim to inform and educate our visitors in advance and during the planning phase of their holiday, so they are knowledgeable of all passport and visa requirements into the region. The most popular destinations by country are South Africa, Zimbabwe, Botswana, Zambia, Namibia and Mozambique in the Southern African region.
Within these multiple country destinations – key tourist destinations include Victoria Falls, Hwange, Mana Pools, Chobe, Okavango Delta, Livingstone, South Luangwa, Mozambique, Vilanculos, Innhassoro and Maputo.
Zimbabwe tourism is “turning a very positive corner” and this growing optimism is encouraging us at Africa Albida Tourism (AAT) group to continue investing in new and upgraded products. In addition to the group’s $3m investment in 2012, further upgrades are planned for this year, including the stylish refurbishment of all 72 rooms at our award-winning Victoria Falls Safari Lodge. There is no question that Victoria Falls has renewed and regained status as a major African tourism hub.
Our own AAT group occupancies, across four properties, grew in 2012 and 2013 forecasts and our forward books show continued growth. We are very optimistic about the Zimbabwe tourism industry at large. Positive developments include the arrival in 2012 of both Emirates (Dubai) and KLM (Amsterdam) back into Harare, the current upgrading of the Victoria Falls International Airport and runway and the general improvement of product and property in Victoria Falls.
By: Ross Kennedy
Date: 26 March 2013