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Domestic tourism needs stimulation

Those who can afford to are already planning big family get-togethers and various beasts are lined up for slaughter.

Inside Track with Grace Mutandwa

Many Zimbabweans still stick to the tradition of Christmas in the rural areas but some have now taken to visiting tourist destinations around the country and beyond our borders.

Whatever you are planning, it all takes time and money. It also requires attention to detail to ensure that every member of the family is catered for.

A just-ended tourism conference in the capital has been big on promoting domestic tourism for families. Many couples complain that most local holiday resorts do not cater for children.

They say there is hardly any entertainment to make the holiday special for the children. The mighty Victoria Falls and game watching are alluring for children up to a certain point. After that, they want amusement parks, horse riding or other activities.

The whole point of a holiday is that the parents get to relax and do things that interest them while the young ones take a break from constantly seeking parental attention and participate in stimulating activities. Not all children are into mountain climbing and bungee jumping is hardly an activity for children.

Make tourism for all and sundry

Most of our resorts are big on scenery and one such place I was going to recommend, I understand will be closing down at the end of the year — and this is unconfirmed. The couple running it will not be taking any more bookings except for the ones they had already committed to. La Rochelle in the Eastern Highlands is a serene place — with exquisite gardens and views, run by a small but dedicated staff. It also had a very good nursery from where I purchased a number of plants I am now enjoying.

While children would not call it a number one resort, it always stood out for most adults who enjoy nature. It is sad to hear its doors will close on the last day of December. But just to show how unreliable news about various places is, there is also news that they are not really closing but renovating. Their website is not very helpful on the issue.

There are so many things happening right now. Elephants are dying of cyanide poisoning and some of the places that might have been very good places to spend your Christmas holiday at might no longer exist for a whole lot of reasons. I can also no longer vouch for quality of service at some of the places. The Zimbabwe Tourism Authority (ZTA) would be able to help you zero in on places to visit.

Many people have also complained that some of our tourism destinations are too expensive, or put aptly, over-priced and that service provision leaves a lot to be desired. People want value for their hard-earned cash.

The fact that more and more people are unemployed and struggling to survive also means that the number of those who can afford to go on holiday is smaller.

In Europe, families are encouraged to go on vacation through package tours that are kind on the family budget. Even families that are considered poor can afford a holiday of sorts.

The tourism industry in Zimbabwe has to be more innovative and find ways of encouraging domestic tourism. There should be more family package tours that do not compromise the quality of service.

We also have a growing population of health fanatics. Most resorts in the country I have visited are very lean on vegetarian cuisine. If you say you are a vegetarian, you will have a sad looking salad thrown at you. Some of the chefs have refused to evolve.

Food is a major part of the whole holiday experience and if you want your place to be remembered, it has to tick all the right boxes – helpful staff, a good wine list, a well-stocked bar, food that seduces the palate, clean rooms, clean and fresh looking bed linen and activities for the whole family.

If you are unable to support domestic tourism then make the best of a family get-together and devise your own entertainment. After all, Christmas is supposed to be family time and it really does not matter if you spend it happily at home or camping in the mountains.

Grace Mutandwa is a communications specialist, media trainer, and published author.

She can be reached at: Twitter: GraceMutandwa1/ Skype:Wisteria42

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