Tourism must wake up, be competitive

The Zimbabwe tourism sector has been caught unawares. While many stakeholders in the industry during the old dispensation spent time lamenting the effects of the illegal sanctions on their businesses, very few thought of expanding or renovating their infrastructure in anticipation of a boom in business in the sector.

There are reports that some of the tourism players were implicated in the externalisation of foreign currency, taking advantage of their sector’s ability to generate hard currency.

They did not invest in capacity expansion and a number of them are likely to fail to tap into huge arrivals that have already been recorded following President Mnangagwa’s Zimbabwe is Open for Business mantra.

There have been increased arrivals at the newly renovated state-of-the-art Victoria Falls International Airport, with more international airlines re-routing to the destination with thousands of tourists.

Today, the majority of major hotels and lodges in major destinations throughout the country are fully booked, calling for the construction of more hotels.

The situation obtaining on the ground is an indication of lack of strategic planning by players in the tourism sector bigger or smaller.

With proper environmental scanning, the indications were already there showing that Zimbabwe was set for a major rebound, calling for all players to start forward planning.

Unfortunately, this is contrary to national expectation as we have a tourism sector that is not ready to capture all the business, resulting in potential customers just coming to some scenic structures in Zimbabwe and then going back to other destinations to put up.

As such, there are so many areas in the sector that we feel need urgent attention if the country is to compete favourably with other players in the region such as South Africa and Zambia offering almost similar tourism packages.

The use of the US dollar as national currency has brought a fair share of challenges for the tourism sector as a number of companies have found themselves offering very uncompetitive prices given the below standard infrastructure some of the companies offer.

It will be a poor national marketing strategy to allow some hotels with torn bed sheets and carpets to continue operating as that picture will haunt the country and demeans all efforts to place it among major players in the tourism players globally.

There are some hotels in Zimbabwe that still charge, let alone market themselves as Five Star Hotels, yet by standards they are Three Stars and that does not augur well with efforts to make the country an international destination of choice.

The Zimbabwe Tourism Authority should stop treating such hoteliers with kid gloves and if we are to meet generally acceptable standards, those failing to play ball should be temporarily closed and be allowed to access the US$15 million facility from the RBZ to spruce up their structures.

Our tourism players should also learn to adopt comprehensive strategies that entail low cost packages to cater for markets that move huge volumes of tourism such as those from Asiatic states. All businesses the world that move volumes and offer lower prices benefit as they will have customers all-round the clock.

Over and above some of these challenges during the old dispensation we had self-inflicting policies such as the Home Affairs Ministry strategy to raise most of the money for operations from motorists including tourists through fines.

In as much as the national police is supposed to maintain law and order, but using it as a tool to extort innocent Zimbabweans had serious ramifications to national image and that should not be allowed to recur.

We implore the new police chief Godwin Matanga to adopt smart and sophisticated policing strategies that do not need his officers’ presence on the roads. We encourage less and less police interaction with people on the road in favour of the use of ITCs.

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