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‘SADC can do more to attract tourists’

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‘SADC can do more to attract tourists’

By Tichaona Kurewa

By Tichaona Kurewa

Harare – Tourism is one of the economic activities that can help grow regional economies if necessary efforts are made by all stakeholders. Players in the tourism sector are of the view that collaboration between regional governments and the private sector can further grow the industry.

Zimbabwe Council for Tourism (ZCT) says the Southern African Development Community (SADC) needs to remove VISA requirements for key safe common target markets and other constraints to promote tourism growth among member countries.

The United Nations World Tourism Organization (UNWTO) recently announced a 7 percent increase in international tourist arrivals in Africa between January and April 2016 compared to the corresponding period last year.

In its latest tourism barometer, UNWTO notes that 13 percent growth in Sub-Saharan Africa sparked overall arrivals on the continent while in North African they tumbled 8 percent.

ZCT President, Francis Ngwenya, says SADC needs to improve the free movement of people between countries in the bloc.

“The UNIVISA pilot project done by Zimbabwe and Zambia proved to be very successful and it is time to extend it to the rest of the SADC region. One of the first steps would be to remove VISA requirements for key safe common target markets and the next step would be the extension of the UNIVISA,” he says.

Ngwenya says the traffic rules, regulations, signage in SADC should be harmonised so that the region can encourage self-drive tourism.

“Uniform pricing driven by a common SADC currency will help make the destination competitive. SADC has the best attractions on the continent by far and investment in infrastructure such as roads and airports will bring more of the attractions into the mainstream tourism circuits that are centred around Victoria Falls, safari areas and the beach,” he says.

The Zimbabwe tourism sector has a number of challenges, which are being addressed. Ngwenya says, access is critical and we welcome the new VISA adjustments made by government and we look forward to more.

Other players in the tourism sector have also called on the Southern African region to come up with joint tourism marketing strategies to maximise on terror attacks in Europe and in some parts of Africa as well disease warning in some of the world renowned destinations.

Conservationist and tour operator Langton Masunda, based in Victoria Falls in the Matabeleland North province of Zimbabwe, says there is urgent need to intensify the marketing of the Kavango-Zambezi Transfrontier Conservation Area (KAZA) – between Angola, Botswana, Namibia, Zambia and Zimbabwe – and the Great Limpopo Transfrontier Park – between Mozambique, South Africa, Zimbabwe – and other tourist attractions.

“Certainly, numbers visiting these places can increase as long as more resources are channelled towards marketing them to the world. Tourists will visit these destinations ahead of other destinations on the continent and beyond,” Masunda says.

According to Masunda, combined marketing strategy by countries and tourism players in the region will boost tourist arrivals.

“This will help do away with walk in, walk out tourists. We want tourists, who can stay longer in the region and moving from one country to another. That’s only when we can afford to reinvest in the necessary infrastructure and improve our service to match international standards. This will transform our tourist facilities into high destination returns,” he says.

He said the region should also capitalise on uncertainty, civil unrest and conflicts in some countries on the continent.

“Zimbabwe and other regional countries are marketable as safe tourist destinations and alternative routes for tourists. SADC is generally quite compared to other regions in the world and this should be presented to the world as reason why tourists should visit the region,” Masunda says.

He says there is also need to remove bottlenecks in the movement of tourists.

“These include numerous roadblocks because their presence sets a negative impact on Zimbabwe. It gives a false impression that Zimbabwe is a crime ridden country, a country with a high crime rate,” Masunda says.

Communal Areas Management Program for Indigenous Resources (CAMPFIRE) director, Charles Jonga, says the move by government to craft Tourism Master Plan is one such effort that would spur growth of the sector.

“CAMPFIRE welcomes the ministry’s efforts in finalising the Tourism Master Plan. This opens up opportunities for the future growth of tourism that also embraces the needs of the communities who have been struggling to get their footing in community based tourism,” he says.

According to UNWTO here has a been a 13 percent tourism growth  in Sub-Saharan Africa despite the 8 percent decline in North Africa created by the security concerns in that part of the world.

Most tourist now have  a bias towards cultural tourism and the fact that Zimbabwe has a high literacy rate will work for the country as locals can converse with tourists telling our culture since most of these tourists are curious to learn more about the destinations they visit.

UNWTO said political instability and recent plane crashes in Egypt continue to have a huge impact on arrivals in North Africa which normally drives tourism in Africa.

UNWTO forecasts international tourist arrivals to increase by 3.5 percent to 4.5 percent over the full year 2016, in line with UNWTO’s long-term projection of 3.8 percent growth a year for the period 2010 to 2020.

UNWTO estimates that some 500 million tourists will travel internationally between May and August 2016, the Northern Hemisphere summer holiday peak season, accounting for about 41 percent of the year’s total international tourist arrivals.

(The Southern Times)

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