Ever since Zimbabwe’s new political dispensation came into effect late last year, one critical factor has prominently appeared in the international discourse – perception!
Tourism is the harbinger of everything and had a net influence in any country’s perception, especially in a global village that bases its decisions of perception and not necessarily reality.
Receipts in the tourism and hospitality industry will not be good until Zimbabwe manages to deal with perception issues.
After a long hiatus, the Zimbabwe Tourism Authority has since January gone overdrive to create the right perception in the Western Europe in particular and elsewhere in general and that needs the support of all and sundry.
ZTA chief Dr Karikoga Kaseke, has managed to host several groups of journalists from the West and taken them to all the tourist resorts in the country so that they tell the Zimbabwean story.
The latest group of British journalists toured tourism tapestries in Harare, Masvingo, Bulawayo, Hwange and Victoria Falls and the story they have already started writing are very positive.
What it means, therefore, is that both the Government and the tourism and hospitality industry should support ZTA in its endeavour to bring back lost glory by having many people become our ambassadors.
We all know, how, in the past, the western media has been very hostile to Zimbabwe and how the same media influenced the imposition of travel embargos and warnings by some western governments, bringing the tourism and hospitality industry in Zimbabwe almost to its knees.
ZTA should also step up the perception management programme, taking advantage that the Government has been ultra-open for business and do celebrity host programmes.
There is no doubt that Zimbabwe has the necessary tourist attraction but the tourism and hospitality industry must go an extra mile to host celebrities and not leave the job to ZTA alone.
The scope of tourism should be broadened beyond Victoria Falls, Great Zimbabwe, Nyanaga, Hwange and Matopos.
There are too many hidden tourism gems dotted across the country that could earn Zimbabwe much respect from discerning tourists.
At a time when the world is scrambling to do business with Zimbabwe, the tourism and hospitality Industry should certainly take advantage of this world mantra and market even the smallest of all tourist attractions. By so doing Zimbabwe gives world tourist wholesalers and source markets a variety of attractions to market.
It is therefore, incumbent upon the tourism and hospitality industry to work in cahoots with ZTA in coming up with a sustainable perception management programme that works to the advantage of all.
The attractions are there but the will power and thought process has been left to ZTA alone. It must be all encompassing.