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Tourists need up-to-date information

Very soon the Christmas holiday will be upon us and apart from worrying about what presents to buy your nearest and dearest, a big worry for some is how and where to spend the holiday.

Report by Grace Mutandwa
I get tired of the usual domestic, regional or international tourism destinations. It is always more fulfilling to stumble on a new and exotic place.

A random Google search on local tourist destinations led me to the Zimbabwe embassy’s website in Stockholm, Sweden. It gives an interesting account of our history, the news page still has two stories from 2009 and the financial services page needs updating. According to the financial page, foreign investors can have anything from 70% to 100% ownership in mining, manufacturing, agriculture and tourism!

It also says that there are sectors of the economy reserved for locals and in these sectors foreigners can have a maximum 35% shareholding. These reserved sectors are primary agricultural production, livestock breeding and transport.

While some tourists just pack bags and try their luck on some countries, some people do try to establish more about the country they are about to visit. Now if you are a tourist and you read newspapers and watch television news, you might end up struggling with what the news says and what a particular website claims. People live in an era where they want to make informed decisions.

The embassy’s website lists the usual Zimbabwean tourist destinations and this is not entirely their fault. There is a ministry charged with the promotion of tourism that should be keeping Zimbabwe’s embassies throughout the world with all the destinations — old and new.

We have a lazy way of looking at tourism — Victoria Falls, Kariba, Nyanga, Matopos, Great Zimbabwe and Gonarezhou. Next year we have tied ourselves to hosting the biggest world tourism shindig and yet we are not even making an effort to ensure that it will truly benefit Zimbabwe’s tourism industry.

Why don’t we have tourism scouts and writers who can go out there and sample, photograph and document some of those places we know exist but are rarely featured in our tourism promotion.

Not every tourist is content with just game watching or bungee jumping. Some also want to take geographical and geological tours.

Let’s market Chilojo cliffs
I would really like to see the Chilojo cliffs featured as a selling point on its own or as part of an attractive package tour. Rising 558 feet from the south bank of Runde River, the Chilojo cliffs are one of the most spectacular features of the Gonarezhou National Park. There are stunning colour variations along the cliff faces which make for very good photography. The cliffs look even more amazing just as the sun sets and are enchanting in a full moon.

The cliffs are also close to the famous Chipinda Pools. You have the chance to visit the Chipinda Pools or Gonarezhou and also take in the cliffs. So many things have happened in the country so I don’t know if the walking trails still exist and I am also not so sure about the game variety and population.

Gonarezhou should be more aggressively marketed than it is currently. I had tried to convince a friend from overseas to visit Gonarezhou without success until I emailed her a picture of the Chilojo cliffs. Gonarezhou has so much more to offer than just game viewing or bird watching. Everything around and within it should be fully exploited to lure tourists.

Tourists need to be assured of safety
We need to get our politics right and make it safe and secure for international tourists to want to visit. News of conservancies being parcelled out and game butchered at will does not make Zimbabwe a tourism destination of choice.

Tourism minister Walter Mzembi is right to point out that the current lawlessness at the Save Valley Conservancy smacks of: “A psychology-driven by the ‘last harvest’ mentality before a drought.”

Mzembi, who seems to be fighting a lone battle, is correct when he says the Save saga has a deeper political meaning.

While those who think they must have a finger in every pie feel they are entitled, they must also realise that their decisions will decide whether or not Zimbabwe will be able to lure tourists and strengthen that sector of the economy that relies on tourism.

Good business sense should trump selfish greed but it takes real leaders to accept that impunity has consequences. We have become a country that excels at sending mixed messages to the world. We want the benefit of harvesting from tourism but we also have some among us who cannot resist destroying the very resources the current and future generations of this country should hope to benefit from.

Those who rule must know that to get good press, the media needs to have something good to write about. We have a major tourism event coming up next year and this is right after the proposed general elections. Judging from past experience, before and the aftermath of elections in Zimbabwe is marred by violence. We have no reason to expect a violent-free election. Depending on just how much blood-letting the next election is going to be, it will be very hard for any normal journalist to ignore the story and the result of any bad publicity is that tourists and investors from democratic and sane countries will give Zimbabwe a wide berth.

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