Thupeyo Muleya, Beitbridge Bureau
ZIMBABWE stands to benefit more from increased arrivals attained through promotion of community-based tourism that also helps preserve the natural environment.
This emerged during the successful wildrun tourism expedition that attracted 80 international tourists to the Greater Mapungubwe Transfrontier Conservation area (GMTFCA).
The GMTFCA is made up of national parks from Zimbabwe, Botswana and South Africa.
This wildrun event, which was held between May 10 and 14, saw the number of participants doubling from 39 to 80, with guests drawn from countries such as Sweden and USA.
The tourists had the opportunity to run following the treks of wild animals in the park for nearly 90 kilometres.
South Africa’s Department of Environment marketing manager for national parks, Mr Roland Vorwek, said the event was aimed at developing community based tourism.
“This was a memorable event, we are very happy with the level of co-ordination and co-operation by stakeholders from the three nations. The whole idea is to promote tourism in the TFCA as well as develop community based tourism,” he said.
“We are overwhelmed by the number of tourists who made it this year and we are looking at making the wildrun an annual event.
“It is also important for us to continue introducing new tourism products in the GMTFCA so that we boost arrivals throughout the year”.
Mr Vorwek said participants traversed the three countries under the guidance of parks rangers from Zimbabwe, South Africa and Botswana.
He said organisers had employed 18 people from the Maramani area to assist with logistical issues and camp management. The tourists entered the country through a temporary tourism border and were based on the Zimbabwean component of the Mega Park.
“It was quite a memorable experience for me in Zimbabwe. I am thrilled by the good wildlife and conservation methods and will definitely bring in more friends to the event next year,” said Mr Stefan Fahlstedt from Sweden.
“In fact I am looking forward to exploring the park further on a private visit”.
Ms Juliet Desilai from Cape Town in South Africa commended the level of professionalism by all the border authorities for the duration of the event.
“Crossing the border through a temporary tourism border was painless and the Zimbabwean team has been very welcoming. I wish we could have more of such events in this park,” she said.
Beitbridge Rural District Council (BBRDC) chief executive officer, Mr Peter Moyo, said the wildrun was a positive step towards the operationalisation of cross border tourism products.
“This event puts our districts on the map. It encourages more investments in community based tourism for our people. The support given to our local business through procurement of consumables cannot be underestimated,” he said.
BBRDC Ward 8 councillor, Mr Luke Ndou, said the wildrun event will help market the Maramani Community camp as a destination of choice in the GMTFCA.
During the inaugural event last year, Boundless Southern Africa donated an assortment of camping equipment worth R327 0000 to Maramani Tourism camp.
The wildrun becomes the second largest event to be held in the GMTFCA after the successful introduction of the Tour de Tuli annual tourism expedition, which usually attracts 350 tourists from across the globe.
In the Tour de Tuli, tourists mainly on mountain bikes will be cycling around the mega-park for three days covering a distance of 350km.