Though Zimbabwe has lagged in its goals of bringing in Chinese visitors over the past decade, a landmark agreement between PATA and the Zimbabwe Tourism Authority (ZTA) ushers in a new era of tourism marketing. Mr. Karikoga Kaseke, chief executive of the ZTA, shares how this innovative partnership could help transform the country’s future.
Have there been any challenges for the Zimbabwe Tourism Authority reaching its 2020 tourism goals?
The ZTA finds itself in a very unenviable situation today in comparison to most national tourism offices (NTO) around the world and region. To many a tourist around the world Zimbabwe [perceived to be] a dangerous country. It is portrayed by the media as more dangerous than the countries that really identify with war and strife. Perceptions currently lingering in the people’s minds are protests and burning of borders, among others vices. Although some of the isolated cases are concentrated on Harare, the global perspective is to taint the whole country as being on fire. All this makes the job of the ZTA more challenging than anyone else hence we have to work a thousand times harder than any other NTO in the world.
What initiatives do you think will help Zimbabwe get closer to its goals?
Undoubtedly, strategic alliances and partnerships with key travel and tourism associations, tour wholesalers, market representatives, and airlines in all source markets is definitely the way to go for Zimbabwe in its quest to realize the set goals and objectives.
Beyond the major attractions in Zimbabwe, are there niche experiences that ZTA is capitalizing on?
Besides our own seven wonders like Victoria Falls, the eastern highlands and Kariba, there is more to see and do. Zimbabwe is among the first African countries to redistribute one of its precious natural resource, land, to its people. This has opened up a lot of opportunities and empowerment to previously disadvantaged communities. The ZTA has also capitalizes on this opportunity by developing sustainable community-based tourism in the previously marginalized communities. Engagement of communities in wildlife management and conservation efforts through Communal Areas Management Programme for Indigenous Resources (CAMPFIRE) is also one way Zimbabwe is engaging marginalized communities in stimulating tourism. This includes the promotion of unique Zimbabwean artistry so rich in these communities. On the same front ZTA has also created an Events and Festivals department within its structures to nurture and develop events and festivals within the country. This has resulted in ZTA initiating the now popular Harare International Carnival which has become one of the must-attend carnivals in Africa. The ZTA has also partnered with numerous festival and events organizers across the country in developing this growing phenomenon.
Is ZTA looking at tourism dispersion to spread visitorship to less-visited areas and off-season periods?
Whilst the majestic Victoria Falls remain a major drawcard for visitors to Zimbabwe and Africa as a whole, one of ZTA’s strategic objective is to increase the geographic spread to other lesser known destinations across the country. Zimbabwe is endowed with a lot of tourism resources such as lesser-known ruins outside of Great Zimbabwe, among others.
Can you share some developments in infrastructure to improve accessibility?
The government of Zimbabwe has entered into strategic alliances through Built Operate and Transfer among others to rehabilitate the country’s major highways, power stations and Airports. Victoria Falls Airport has been turned into a bigger and modern airport able to accommodate wide-bodied aircrafts. This game-changer will soon be the regional hub for all tourists coming into Africa. The same goes for the Public Private Partnerships (PPP) that saw the modernization of Buffalo Range Airport.
Is ZTA aiming its tourism development efforts toward any particular market?
Zimbabwe is naturally gifted as it has products and services targeted for all market segments and budgets. The country has hosted acclaimed celebrities, leaders and business people from around the world, as well as hosting as reputable international and high-profile conferences in the mold of the UNWTO General Assembly and various UN Conferences. This goes to show that Zimbabwe has it all for all markets across the globe. The country has some niche products and services both in cities and resorts popular with the high-end markets from both traditional markets in Europe, Americas and the Pacific, and new markets within Asia, Africa and South America.
What are your biggest hopes for ZTA’s landmark partnership with PATA in the coming years?
Our hope is to leverage on PATA’s diversity, growing networks, partnerships, experience, and global platforms to reach out primarily to the Asia and Pacific markets and the world at large.
Photo credit: ©iStock.com/2630ben