Leonard Ncube, Victoria Falls Reporter
HUNDREDS of professional hunters and tour guides countrywide, thrown out of work a few months ago, are now pinning their hopes on the reopening of the tourism industry which should bring in tourists and guarantee their jobs.
The tourism industry ground to a halt because of Covid-19 which caused cancellation of trips and suspension of flights by airlines.
Lack of clients automatically meant no jobs for tour guides but the recent reopening of the industry came as good news to them. That, however will only be true if clients start trickling in.
For professional hunters the hunting season is almost over while tourism in general has entered its low season, which further compounds challenges.
Professional hunters and tour guides are key to the tourism industry and are generally in the forefront in terms of marketing the country to visitors during trips.
A professional hunter or professional guide leads hunters and helps them track a specific species based on several factors as may be guided by authorities.
A tour guide leads tourists and visitors to leisure or any other place and explains to them about the particular place or facility being visited.
Both must have a practicing certificate to get a job or entry with clients into facilities like the Rainforest.
Mr James Brown, a professional hunter said efforts should be directed towards marketing the country to attract tourists.
“In this situation media plays a key role to paint a picture of hope for our country so that our tourism comes back to life. Some people want to come to Zimbabwe because it is a great land,” said Mr Brown.
He said, without tourism, life has been hard for professional hunters and guides.
“We are glad that the economy is opening up but the hunting season is almost over without any activity. Once the sector opens, I guess there will be intensive hunting because we are given quotas by authorities. It will be up to us to give clients what they paid for and make them want to come back,” he said.
While ordinary remuneration for professional hunters and guides may not be attractive, there are lucrative gratuities. Some even end up being invited by clients to lead hunts and tours in other countries.
Mr Thinkwell Sangweni who has been a professional guide since 1991 said many people want to be guides because of the exposure to clients and gratuities that come along.
“We have a big challenge because our trade is wholly dependent on tourism. This industry is fragile and vulnerable hence everyone is grounded. Many have lost jobs while others have relocated to rural areas but we just hope that things will improve as the economy reopens and things stabilise,” he said.
Guides operate locally on day-long trips or sometimes go for weeks or months to other countries with clients.
Some tourists prefer to be led by female guides.
This has led to a significant number of women joining the trade.
Some have left their professional jobs to become guides while others have taken it as a second trade.
Ms Locks Tshuma, a former civil servant said she became a professional guide in 2017 after being inspired by the love of nature and desire to interact with people.
She bemoaned the prevalence of sexual harassment but said personal integrity and professionalism should guide an individual.
“I just felt I wanted to be in tourism and meet different people. This industry is dominated by men and sometimes when they see a female guide, they think otherwise and call you names. Sometimes you encounter incidents of sexual harassment but as a professional we are taught never to say ‘yes’ to such client’s behaviour. One should have personal integrity and at the same time keep clients professionally happy so they come back,” she said.
Ms Silibaziso Ncube is a teacher who does tour guiding as a part time job.
“I trained in tour guiding because I love nature and conservation. It’s a job I can do during my spare time or when I am not at work. I want to encourage people especially women out there to find their niche and put those skills to good use,” she said.
There are a number of private institutions that offer training in professional hunting and tour guiding and examinations are done through the Zimbabwe Parks and Wildlife Management Authority and University of [email protected]