By Norman Moyo
THE theme of the last Zimbabwe Council for Tourism (ZCT) Congress had all the ingredients of a successful plan to address one of the fundamental challenges facing the tourism
industry – cooperation.
The need for cooperation versus confrontation is linked intricately to the subject of working together for the good of the industry.
Such cooperation is a necessary condition for industry competitiveness and thus a key objective for the industry. In wake of tourism decline, cooperation between the public and private sector has to reach an unprecedented degree of cohesion in the design and execution of strategies. This will be in response to a scenario that is hitherto different from all traditional challenges the industry has experienced.
The government and private sector in Zimbabwe need to do more if their cooperation levels are to be of any significance to the industry. The socio-political challenges currently affecting the industry go to the very root of tourism.
According to A Maslow’s Pyramid, human beings have five critical needs to be satisfied.
The hierarchy of needs is physiological (food, water and oxygen), followed by safety (need to feel safe eg during times of disorder like rioting, war), love and belonging (need to escape loneliness and alienation), self-esteem and self-actualisation. The need for safety is the second most important human need. Zimbabwe, like most countries is found wanting on this important need. In my previous article, I emphasised the need to fight the negative perception that Zimbabwe is not a safe destination. It is government’s primary responsibility to provide safety. Although strides have been made towards this area through the introduction of the tourism police task force, a lot more needs to be done.
Recently, the Zimbabwe Tourism Authority (ZTA) announced in a threatening tone that they are concerned about some hotels not meeting the required standards. I understand where the authority is coming from, although I find the threat to knock some stars off those hotels as rather insensitive. Once again the spirit of cooperation needs to be upheld.
ZTA needs to engage the hotel owners and look for practical means to assist the hotels to improve their product quality instead of adapting a confrontational stance. It is difficult enough for most operators to keep their doors open, as it is surely more difficult to maintain standards. I am not advocating for the authority to allow a mediocre product on the market, I am advocating for more cooperation with the hotels and means to assist them.
Cooperation between regional countries should be encouraged. There is an urgent need to engage other regional marketing authorities and work together to market Southern Africa as an international destination. When tourists fly from Asia or Europe they do not necessarily want to spend all their holiday in one country. They like to experience the full bouquet of products the region has to offer.
Botswana and Zambia suffered significantly from the land reform in Zimbabwe. Therefore problems affecting tourism in Zimbabwe have a ripple effect on the entire performance of the region and one individual country cannot go alone.
Positive and effective initiatives have to be undertaken to pull together resources and provide assistance in the areas of marketing communication and crisis management. ZTA will need to make the initiative to bring these member countries to create cooperation. Tourism is now global and there are now more destinations chasing few tourists hence the need to put our regional act together.
Cooperation at industry level has to be fostered and nurtured. Currently, two industry representative bodies have kept communication lines open with each other which is a good basis for growing industry synergies. There is a need for a centralised body to coordinate efforts from all the players to participate. Marketing initiatives from Hospitality Association of Zimbabwe, ZCT, ZTA, Civil Aviation Authority of Zimbabwe, Air Zimbabwe, AZTA, Conference Harare and numerous other industry stakeholders are still disjointed. There is duplication of activities and waste of the meager resources. Remember strategy follow resources.
On a more positive note, I would like to highlight one exciting paradox about tourism in Zimbabwe. The industry has gained so much publicity in the past four years than it could have generated without the crisis. It is a fact that recovery of the tourism industry is already under way, albeit slowly, and the industry is expected to exceed pre-crisis levels.
There are more Germans, Russians, Czechs, Americans, Chinese and Japanese today who know about Zimbabwe than before the pre-crisis period.
When I visited Germany in 2000, I constantly got questions such as “in which US state is Zimbabwe found?” (implying that Zimbabwe must be a state in United States of America).
Believe it or not some guys out there had no clue where Africa was. Today they do not only recognise where Zimbabwe can be found they can even pronounce our local names fluently. When the industry turns around it will be another post-depression era.
There is definitely a shining light at the end of the tunnel.
Norman Moyo is Cresta Hospitality’s Group sales and marketing manager. e-mail your comments to email@example.com