HomePoliticsZim's marketing strategy 'too shallow'

Zim’s marketing strategy ‘too shallow’

Charlene Ambali

AN influential American travel agency has dismissed the Zimbabwe Tourism Authority (ZTA)’ s marketing strategy as too shallow to attract international tourists.

face=”Verdana, Arial, Helvetica, sans-serif”>The shortcomings came to light following a visit by a delegation from the American Travel Bureau (ATB) which called for an overhaul of Zimbabwe’s marketing strategies.

The ATB helps to foster ties between the business community and tourism sector.

During its tour, the American delegation observed that Zimbabwe had a lot to offer but this had not been fully sold to potential tourists abroad. The delegation visited six tourist attraction centres dotted across the country.

“We have had an exceptional experience at fabulous locations,” Ray Gary, ATB’s sales and marketing vice-president, told reporters after the tour.

“But the biggest impact above everything else was the people. Those who have never been here before do not understand what Zimbabwe is.”

Other members said the ZTA was failing to market and enlighten people abroad about Zimbabwe’s tourism.

Other delegates said the unavailability of local currency delayed their countrywide tour, which was not conducive for tourism.

The ZTA’s North American representative Dr James Kamusikiri said the tourism sector blamed negative media publicity instead of promoting tourism in the country. He said the ZTA could adopt more imaginative promotion strategies.

“There is a lack of a common Zimbabwe imaging. The tourism industry should have a national theme and develop a package that defines Zimbabwe,” said Kamusikiri.

Speaking during a de-briefing meeting in Harare last week, Gary said bad publicity was a minor issue.

“People are not afraid of minor political issues, they are still going to countries like Israel.”

The Americans’ visit came at a time when the tourism industry has virtually collapsed with international tourists turning their backs on the once popular destination.

Tourism has been on the slide over the past three years with the number of tourists visiting the country falling by over 70% during the period.

The slump has been attributed to the government’s anarchic land reform programme that saw the invasion and vandalising of tourist facilities.

Analysts have said the absence of the rule of law and the volatile political atmosphere has contributed to tourism’s slide.

Responding to the issues raised by the delegation, the ZTA’s marketing and communications manager, Jeffreys Manjengwa, said the organisation was doing everything it could to promote tourism in the country.

“We attend major shows overseas to exhibit what Zimbabwe has to offer. We also organise tours, especially on agro- and eco-tourism,” he said.

He however admitted that there was a new market segment that did not want to tour the traditional tourism sites like the Victoria Falls, Kariba and Great Zimbabwe. Manjengwa called for a partnership between the public and private sector to promote other sites in the country.

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