ZIMBABWE’s tourism destination attractiveness goes beyond the famous Victoria Falls and there is a need for aggressive marketing to capitalise on a variety of other natural and historic heritage cites across the country to maximise earnings, a global hospitality think-tank has said.
HVS Africa, one of the largest global hospitality advisory consultancy firms, strongly believes Zimbabwe can reap huge tourism dividends if all stakeholders put their act together to support growth of the sector. Now that the elections are over, HVS Africa associate director, Rishabh Thapar, says the new the new Government needs to hit the ground running and shift focus from politics to economic development.
He stresses that tourism presents a huge window for growth in the economic transformation process. In this regard, Thapar says more needs to be done to market wider destinations cites beyond Victoria Falls, which has tended to receive global image dominance.
“Most travel itineraries in Southern Africa do not explore Zimbabwe’s tourist attractions beyond the famed Victoria Falls. This presents an opportunity,” says Thapar.
“Zimbabwe has abundant natural attractions such as Nyanga National Park, Matobo National Park, Hwange National Park, Lake Kariba, the Great Zimbabwe Monuments and Chinhoyi Caves, which all need to be promoted and established into itineraries and tourism circuits.”
HVS Africa has since recommended that a master-plan for all these destinations be urgently developed to enhance the tourist’s experience and ultimately increase the length of stay in the country. While the plan should focus on airlines, connectivity, hotels and tourism infrastructure/activities, Thapar advises that the Government should also invest in building a long-term tourism policy for preservation and conservation while providing incentives for private investments.
Given the country’s rich natural and historic heritage cites, there is consensus between Government and private sector that tourism is a low-hanging fruit that could be harnessed to create more job opportunities and help alleviate poverty. Yet Zimbabwe has not benefitted much from the sector as a result of a chain of impediments. Citing an analysis by African Sun Limited, HVS Africa indicates Zimbabwe is currently ranked 117th in most likely travel destinations in the world as compared to South Africa, which ranks 60th. The gaps in infrastructure development, inadequate destination marketing, high costs of services among others, top the ladder of constraints. According to Thapar, the new political administration needs to urgently attend to these in its mandate to turn around the economy. While this does not imply an instant fix, proactive measures can be taken.
“The country, which is under severe external debt, needs to be able to gain access to credit. The government would need to create favourable policies, stamp out corruption and create/revive its own currency – this requires their undivided focus,” says Thapar, adding that tourism could play a massive role in this effort.
He believes that one of the major plans for the new government should be to restore financial and political stability by involving its skilled workforce in national building programmes and schemes.
“More than three million Zimbabweans are estimated to be living outside their country, having left the country for better economic prospects during the last two decades. This accomplished workforce with their experience of living abroad would certainly play a crucial role in the rise of Zimbabwe if they were to return to their country,” says Thapar.
He explains that a phase of restoring confidence among its citizens and the international community could usher an era of increased domestic and foreign investment and growth, which perhaps has remained stunted for a better part of two decades.
“Tourism policies and infrastructure can create massive opportunities for an economy. Not only through job creation and direct/indirect income from tourism activities but also creating opportunity for interaction and business avenues,” says Thapar.
According to World Travel and Tourism Council, while the direct contribution of travel and tourism to Zimbabwe’s GDP was 3.5%, the total contribution of Travel and Tourism to GDP - including wider effects from investment, the supply chain and induced income impacts – was over 8% in 2016 and 2017.
As one of the largest global hospitality advisory consultancy firms, HVS Africa offers support aspects of financing, developing, owning, or operating a hospitality property. The firm’s global capabilities include operational strategic consultancy, executive talent search, asset management, hotel valuations and feasibility studies, as well as operator search and selection support – all packaged for the local African market. HVS Africa has also written a book on how to value a hotel in 1980, having evolved into the global professional services leader by continually providing clients with unrivalled hospitality intelligence. Today, HVS has a team of more than 400 professionals located in over 50 offices throughout the world who specialise in all types of hospitality assets, including hotels, restaurants, casinos, shared ownership lodging, mixed-use developments, and golf courses, as well as conventions, sports, and entertainment facilities.