Sadc moots seamless tourism

The Sunday News

 Nkosilathi Sibanda, Sunday Business Correspondent

THE Southern African Development Community (Sadc) has seen it fit to remove barriers that hinder sustainable tourism development as the region intensifies efforts to align the tourism industry with the African Union’s Agenda 2063. 

The hospitality and tourism sector in the regional grouping is booming, with records of high returns on individual country economies. In order to streamline the industry to meet the AU and United Nations’ World Tourism Organisation (UNWTO)’s sustainable development goals on tourism, it has been agreed that Sadc implements a 10-year marketing programme.

Unblocking the barriers could come as good news to tour planners, hoteliers and travelers as it would entail doing away with duplications in travel offers and delays at border posts and airport delays.

Recently, as part of efforts to collaborate tourism activities in the region, member states’ ministers responsible for environment, natural resources and tourism agreed to a reputation building framework on the 2020-2030 Sadc Tourism Programme. 

The programme, a first of its kind, was premised on the idea to create a policy that will act as a guide to the attainment of a sustainable tourism industry in the region. Tourism destinations in the region are in the lead in terms of tourist attractions globally, of which players and Government authorities have come up with an ambitious initiative to use tourism as a springboard for regional reputation and investor engagement.

Among targeted destinations are Victoria Falls, famed as the international tourists’ favorite for 2019 by the Lonely Planet magazine, trans-frontier wildlife parks, culture points and historic landmarks and buildings. Zimbabwe and South Africa are one of the countries that have done away with border barriers through the Limpopo Trans-Frontier Park. Zimbabwe has started using tourism as an image builder through the “Brand Zimbabwe” initiative spearheaded by the Ministry of Environment, Tourism and Hospitality Industry and the Zimbabwe Tourism Authority (ZTA).

In a briefing last week, the Sadc Tourism Co-ordination Unit said the aim of the programme is to stimulate tourism growth.

“The vision of the programme for 2030 is that growth in cross-border, multi-destination travel in Sadc will exceed average global tourism growth levels,” said Mr Domingos Gove, Sadc Director of the Food, Agriculture and Natural Resources Directorate, an organ under the Sadc Tourism Co-ordination Unit.

The Tourism Business Council of Zimbabwe has said the move by Sadc is going to help the industry reach its potential. 

Equally so, ZTA said the removal of certain barriers would be an advantage for first entry business and travelers who want preferential packages.

“This is a welcome development in as far as tourism business growth is concerned. We are going to see the merging of tour packages, seamless travels and most importantly an increase in the length of stay and return visits to various destinations. Above all, this is a win-win situation where private and the public players in tourism and hospitality are set to benefit,” said ZTA head of communications, Mr Godfrey Koti.

Chairman of the Gwayi, Dete and Hwange Conservancy Mr Langton Masunda said although Sadc took its time in calling for regional tourism integration, it is worthy to note there is now commitment on the policy front.

“This was supposed to be done way back. We could talking of a different scenario where Sadc is in the lead, both in tourism and conservancy. We see this as an enabler to promote growth and development through the co-ordination of guidelines,” he said.

According to Sadc, the 2020-2030 programme will also seek to encourage visitor movement and flows to and within the region, improve and defend the tourism reputation and image of the region.

“Importantly, it takes cognisance of the need for engagement across multiple sectors due to the cross-cutting nature of the tourism industry. The importance of strategically engaging private-sector stakeholders was also acknowledged in development of the tourism programme,” said the regional block in a communique.