We Should Broaden Our Tourism Scope to Farms

By Isdore Guvamombe
Far from the hodgepodge of Zimbabwe’s traditional tourist attractions – Victoria Falls, Great Zimbabwe, Hwange National Park and Nyanga and all – the country is sitting on vast untapped tourism potential.

If we were thinking tourism seriously, we should have treated the land reform as a benevolent mistress and a harbinger of tourism fortunes to the new black farmers, who should have been made to buttress farm tourism as a money making venture.

But the truth is that the tourism and hospitality industry slipped into slumber and ran with farming as a provider of food for hotels and restaurant only, without thinking of the trajectory of the land reform providing a platform for a grand entrance of black farmer into farming tourism.

Today, the lethargy of that slumber is with us and hard to shake off.

White farmers had farm lodges, wildlife sanctuaries, national monuments, snake parks, crocodile pens and all attractions which they capitalised on and attracted tourists.

They held many licences that helped them add some dollars to their farming income.

Where are we today? Why are our people not into that business? Are the farmers aware they could also be in the tourism business on their farms?

When in 2000 the land reform programme transferred land from about 4 000 white farmers into the hands of about 400 000 black farmers, the tourism industry failed to remember totally that the majority of white farmers had tourism permits at their farms and indeed made tourism work.

Today’s tourism and hospitality industry has forgotten this aspect of tourism and there has been no deliberate effort to promote some new farmers to venture into tourism.

The few farmers who have tried to get into it have been disappointed by bureaucratic bungling and a multifarious array of licences that one gets after going through drop-dead queues.

The timbre of it being that tourism should be all over Zimbabwe in order to capture a broad spectrum of tourists and increase receipts.

The ease of doing business must be in the fore when farmers decide to go into tourism because it is a new area for them.

The Zimbabwe Tourism Authority, the vanguard of the tourism and hospitality industry by Act of Parliament, should deliberately engage farmers and come up with incentives for farmers to venture into tourism.

Leveraging on the lilt that ZTA chief executive Dr Karikoga Kaseke is a farmer himself, implementing the new trajectory should not be a problem. His combative style can make things move fast but the first thing is to identify farmers with the potential to venture into tourism.

National Parks and Wildlife Management Authority must also play its role in ensuring that farmers get the necessary knowledge and training and licences on how to keep wildlife on their farms.

The time to do it is now. It is time to take advantage of the new political dispensation and make things happen. A man who does not propose love to a girl on time, will end up ushering at her wedding.

Soon South Africa is taking land and we will go and see their tourism projects on the farms and yet we have the chance to start making it happen.

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