Isdore Guvamombe recently in Durban South Africa
The Africa Indaba Travel and Tourism Exposition held in Durban, South Africa from 8 to 10 May 2018, ended with the SADC region emphasizing on the need to come up with deliberate policies that promote domestic tourism.
At the moment, the SADC region's domestic tourism receipts stand at an average of 30 percent per country, and that speaks to an over-reliance on foreign tourist receipts.
While foreign receipts rely mainly on international politics and perceptions, which at times are out of the control of many regional governments, the discourse at the indaba centred on the fact that each government has powers to work on internal policies, pricing regimes and incentives that can promote domestic tourism.
The Ministers of Tourism from Zimbabwe, Namibia and South Africa took centre stage in pushing the domestic tourism thrust and also agreed on a new trajectory of widening tourism tapestries from the traditional tourist attractions such as Victoria Falls, Walvis Bay, Cape Town to smaller national and historical monuments such as enshrinement of liberation struggle battles fought in the region during the war of against colonialism.
It was agreed that Zimbabwe’s situation in the past few years during its diplomatic tiff with Europe and the United States should be a case study as the country’s tourism and hospitality industry survived mainly on domestic tourism.
History had taught SADC during Zimbabwe’s political hiatus that lasted several years until the new political dispensation came into effect last November, that a powerful domestic tourism drive can sustain national tourism.
Africa's scores of tourism organisations should push for a different pricing regime for local and international tourists, with local tourist being charged less as a way of incentivizing them to travel.
Zimbabwe’s Tourism and Hospitality Industry Minister Prisca Mupfumira said Zimbabwe had learnt from the past and it has deliberately taken a position to also promote domestic tourism.
“We are now pushing domestic tourism. We are also doing a lot of enshrinement of liberation struggle sites. We are spreading the tourist sites to all over the country. Everywhere you go, there should be a tourist attraction. But domestic tourism at 30 percent is too low.
"We had an experience ourselves in Zimbabwe that domestic tourism is a very powerful tool for development. The pricing regime should acknowledge that local people should have their own affordable charges so that they can also afford tourism.
"In order to inculcate the culture in Africa of our people traveling and enjoy travel and tourism, a boost in domestic tourism is the starting point. Tourism must be affordable to the local people. The local people can sustain an industry in times of trouble but we need to give them incentives," said Mupfumira.
She said tourism stakeholders in Africa should quickly come up with an array of schemes that push domestic tourism.
"There must be many schemes such as fly-now-and-pay-later or visit-now-and-pay-later for local people as a way of promoting domestic tourism," she said.
Namibia’s Minister of Environment and Tourism, Pohamba Shifeta, said there was a new discourse of how to promote domestic tourism in the region in terms regional tourism and national tourism.
“There is now a deliberate shift to have countries promote domestic tourism so that our own people are able to travel to local tourist attractions. The shift includes a new thinking on how to give the local people incentives that make them travel and enjoy their countries.
“There is also new thinking on how to promote regional travelling by our people,’’ he said.
South Africa Minister of Tourism, Derek Hanekom, said his country was taking a leading role in promoting domestic tourism. He said there has been a discovery that depending on foreign tourists alone was not good for the tourism economy.
“We are all looking at ways of promoting domestic tourism. It has come to our attention that more often than not, we tend to look elsewhere for tourism.
“We must develop systems that promote domestic tourism and our people should be free to travel to local tourist resorts. We must make it easy for them,’’ he said.
Promotion of domestic tourism is now leading on the agenda of the Regional Tourism Organisation of Southern Africa (Retosa).