The local tourism sector, hit hard by Covid-19, is on an aggressive marketing drive to attain a quick recovery.
The Zimbabwe Tourism Authority (ZTA), Hospitality Association of Zimbabwe, individual hotels, tourism operators and support services are running collaborative and individual destination marketing initiatives to get tourists back. They are using social and conventional media to get the message across that it is now safe for tourists to visit the country.
Operators in Victoria Falls, the linchpin of local tourism, have just launched the second phase of a communication and recovery campaign which is showcasing the resort town’s readiness to welcome back tourists. By early this week, the initiative had reached more than 30 000 international prospective travellers.
The “We are Victoria Falls” campaign that is backed by the World Bank is communicating accurate and up to date information on the destination management of Covid-19, collecting and disseminating information on external trade sentiment to aid preparedness and response and also reinforcing the brand position of the destination. The first phase ran from June to last month and sought to get support from local tourism stakeholders as well as building the trust and confidence of external trade partners through getting responses on social media platforms. The second phase started two weeks ago and will run until the first quarter of next year when the country’s tourism is expected to have warmed up to the April to October peak season. It is possible that operators in other destinations such as Lake Kariba, the Eastern Highlands and so on are also running separate initiatives with the same agenda.
These come a few weeks after the Government reopened the tourism sector for local tourists and cleared the resumption of flights and inter-city travel. In addition, the Government recently launched the National Tourism Recovery and Growth Strategy that seeks to create a US$5 billion tourism sector by 2025.
There indeed, is much aggressive action by the Government on one hand and the private sector on the other which should entice tourists to return and get the industry back on its feet after months of zero business and massive job losses.
Tuesday saw yet another initiative being rolled out – ZTA roping in Zimbabwe Cricket (ZC) to help in marketing the country as an attractive tourism destination.
Speaking at the launch, President Mnangagwa said the partnership between local national cricket teams and the ZTA under the Visit Zimbabwe Promotion Campaign would help drive tourism recovery. As part of the initiative the national cricket teams will wear merchandise inscribed, “Visit Zimbabwe a World of Wonders,” starting with Zimbabwe’s tour of Pakistan from the end of this month to 10 November. This will continue to the ICC T20 World Cup.
“I challenge the ZTA, Zimbabwe Parks and Wildlife Management Authority as well as the National Museums and Monuments, among other agencies, to maximise on the benefits of this Visit Zimbabwe Campaign by unveiling unique products which promote Zimbabwe’s wildlife, natural and cultural heritage,” said President Mnangagwa.
In reaching out to ZC and sealing the partnership, the ZTA made a good decision. Cricket is a big sport with an immense global audience. Also, our local senior team plays at the top level with the world’s biggest cricket-playing countries among them India, Pakistan, Australia, England, Sri Lanka and The West Indies. Some of the top cricket-playing nations, which local representative teams frequently play against, also happen to be significant source markets for our tourism sector.
Furthermore, the fact that cricket matches, including those involving our national teams, draw a global television audience means that the Visit Zimbabwe a World of Wonders message will get out there effectively.
Local cricket is thus a major, internationally recognised brand which local tourism can viably leverage on to market itself and the country in the immediate and longer-term aftermath of Covid-19.
As the tourism industry seeks to find its feet again, it can be useful too for them to widen their choice of partners beyond cricket.
Football can obviously be one of them. The senior national soccer team will next month host Algeria in a 2021 Afcon qualifier. The National Sports Stadium, which recently underwent a great deal of refurbishment, will host the match. We are of the opinion that ZTA can reach out to the Zimbabwe Football Association (Zifa) too for a collaboration similar to the one they have with ZC.
We have some big names in the Warriors who play their game in some of the world’s biggest leagues. Marvellous Nakamba at Aston Villa in the English top-flight, Marshall Munetsi at French top flight club Reims, Tino Kadewere at another French side Lyon, Teenage Hadebe at Turkish Super Lig club Yeni Malatyaspor and Khama Billiat at South Africa’s Kaizer Chiefs should be willing to be ambassadors for local tourism.
There is a number of other Zimbabwean athletes who compete in other sporting codes in the US, Australia, Germany and South Africa who can be flag bearers of local tourism.