Now a quarter of a century after independence a new breed of ‘When we’s’ both black and white remember the good life they once had in Zimbabwe up until the turn of the century.
There are several estimates of the number of new ‘When we’s’ living outside of Zimbabwe and some estimate as many as 1 million in the UK and 4 million in South Africa. This would mean that nearly 1 in every 10 people in South Africa could actually be from Zimbabwe and that each year there are 5 million Zimbabweans that yearn to go home to visit family that can’t get out of the country. It also means that every Zimbabwean who has given up their Zimbabwen passport for any other he or she qualified for, would count as a ‘tourist’ when they now travel home as a holiday maker.
Given these statistics one can only sympathise with CE of the Zimbabwe Tourism Authority Mr Kaseke. He needs to regulate tourism inflows, project arrivals and plan for upcoming events such as the World Cup 2010. And with an unbalanced parallel system where at ZWD250 to one USD a tourist buying a beer on his credit card at a Harare hotel would be paying about USD400 for it or USD1.50 if he illegally changed money on the black market. So it is simple to see why potential tourists aren’t coming. The Southern African region is embodying the internet, online payment and booking systems and Zimbabwe is being left in the dark because of it. Bookings for the World Cup have gained momentum and most business will be done online with potential guests checking availability online with hotels and guesthouses and paying with credit cards. Because Zimbabwe’s foreign exchange policy is not conformed to normal banking standards the country will be largely ignored and Zambia and Mozambique will undoubtedly benefit from ‘their’ tourists.
And then there is also the unenviable task of perception. How can Mr Kaseke and his team possibly lure a tourist back when the country’s image is in taters? At this year’s travel Indaba the Zambia and Mozambique stands were a hive of activity. The Zimbabwe stand looked better, and in my opinion had more to offer, but was not as busy. The opportunity cost of current economic policy in Zimbabwe is that the country’s tourism industry is being forgotten and the rest of the region is opening up to the world and being booked up a year or two in advance while Zimbabwe’s resources are lying idle and falling prey to poaching. A comparison between Victoria Falls and Livingstone will show that Zimbabwe trounces Zambia on nearly every level when it comes to infrastructure and expertise and even the viewpoints of the mighty Falls itself are far better on the Zimbabwean side. It is estimated by The Zimbabwe Conservation Task Force that game ranches have lost between 80% and 90% of wildlife to poachers and the larger conservancies have lost around 60%. Some game ranchers have reported that they do not have a single animal left.
So I speak to all the new ‘When we’s’ when I say that Zimbabwe’s wildlife and tourist attractions are truly running the risk of never being able to recover and it is a challenge not to let it happen. Many might argue that supporting tourism is filling government coffers but if it is a moral obligation preventing one from enjoying the attractions on offer then do so wisely and put money in the pockets of people that do make a difference such as the rangers and local craftsmen who have built their livelihoods around serving tourists.
It is perhaps common knowledge that Johannesburg is far more dangerous than Harare and that Zimbabwe is excellent value for money and while it is a tall order to ask new tourists to come to Zimbabwe it is not such a big ask to want old tourists, ex-Zimbabweans, to support the people on the ground who are committed to keeping Zimbabwe’s heritage alive. For all your accommodation needs in Zimbabwe from weddings to self catering getaways please email the Venues4Africa.com Harare team on [email protected] and they will assist you in planning a Zimbabwean holiday of a lifetime and in doing so you will have made a difference to the lives of those involved.