The Sunday Mail
Efforts by tourism players to entice locals to various tourist resorts seem to have paid off as witnessed at the recently ended Victoria Falls Carnival.
Over the years the carnival has been a major tourist magnet, attracting thousands of visitors from various parts of the world. In previous years, locals contributed a small fraction of the attendees to the event but the recently held edition was different as they made up for close to 50 percent of the record breaking numbers that came through.
The signs were there even before the event kicked off, with every flight from the capital during the carnival dates fully booked. Even buses that ply that route were also fully booked, a clear indication that a sizeable number of locals were visiting the resort town around that time.
If these figures are anything to go by, this is an indication that there has been a major boost on the domestic tourism front, something that the industry has been crying for of late.
ZTA head of corporate affairs Godfrey Koti attributes the increased travelling by Zimbabweans within their own country to more visibility and easy access to information of the tourism product.
“ZTA and the entire tourism sector have been on a protracted drive to encourage our people to travel locally and we also intensified domestic marketing efforts. It’s a fact that disposable income is hard to come by and our efforts have been based on encouraging people to start saving early to be able to treat themselves and their families,” said Koti.
Koti commended the Zambezi Vic Falls Carnival for the impact it has had on the local tourism sector, highlighting that there was a need to invest in such initiatives in other parts of the country.
“The event has surely made an impact in the sector and has demonstrated the importance of investing in this type of tourism. It provided commercial activity which in turn brought in unparalleled benefits for the Victoria Falls community with accommodation selling out and even spilling to the community as some people were renting out their houses.
“This is the hub of tourism and it is delightful to see such fruitful all round activity for service providers which had enormous economic rewards and I believe we need to encourage the private sector to embark on such projects in various provinces of the country,” said Koti.
However locals found the costs of holidaying steep as most goods and services were charged in foreign currency or the equivalent parallel exchange rate for bond notes or RTGS. Koti said the issue of pricing is a national issue, which requires joint efforts from all stakeholders in the industry.
“This is a multi-faceted problem that requires engagement with other sectors and stakeholders and we are working round the clock to foster a more sustainable and fair pricing structure which will be sensitive to our consumers across the board on the other hand making sense commercially to the operators.
“Very recently we had a round table with the Tourism Business Council of Zimbabwe and other tourism industry stakeholders to discuss competitive pricing strategies. Comparing with our SADC counterparts such as South Africa, Botswana, Zambia and Mozambique – Zimbabwe is the most expensive tourism destination and we would like to see a considerable improvement in that regard.”
Considering that of late more locals have developed an appetite to visit domestic resorts, industry players have to up their game if they are to capitalise on the situation.
“There is need to continuously engage players in the sector to continue improving their product offing and on the other hand government has a part to play in making sure that it puts in place policies that are development and investment friendly. From a promotion point of view we need to continue educating the entire populace about the benefits of domestic tourism and also engage communities, particularly for those bordering the parks and reserves for them to appreciate the product value chain.”