By Norman Moyo
THE difference between winners and losers lies in execution. Exactly five years after the decline of the tourism industry, the two industry representative bodies – Zimbabw
e Tourism Authority (ZTA) and Zimbabwe Council for Tourism (ZCT) have no plan of action or policy to spearhead tourism recovery.
As a matter of fact, I attended the last industry meeting a few days ago and there were frantic efforts and slogans on adopting a tourism master plan, policy, road map whatever they could think of. The industry is never short of ideas on what needs to be done to turn around the hospitality sector. What they are short of is a commitment and a culture of execution to see through issues to fruition. I call this execution.
I have attended industry meetings for the past three years and have concluded that while the tourism operators or players are desperately crying for leadership to take them through this difficult period all they get are the same breed of leaders bent on building and enhancing their own personal, social and political egos and aspirations. The last congress in Bulawayo was a total waste of time in my opinion. A lot of time was spent on massaging people’s egos and that has been the order of things – return on ego.
The art of leading comes down to one thing: facing reality and then acting decisively and quickly on that reality.
ZTA and ZCT need to face this reality. There is a need to permeate every mind in the industry, society and government with an attitude and atmosphere that allows and encourages tourism players to see things as they are and to deal with the way it is now, not the way they wish it would be.
The politicking with genuine industry issues began some three to four years ago. The industry leaders found pleasure and solace in blaming and lobbying government for certain policy changes.
I suspect that they found an easy scapegoat in government for their lack of strategy and focus. They deliberately diverted their focus from their failure to effectively engage government and other stakeholders to market Zimbabwe as a prime destination and wanted to blame government for their woes.
I have always maintained that the government, like any other company, has strategic objectives, goals and objectives for their stakeholders. They derive their key result areas (KRA) from these. These objectives do not necessarily have to be aligned to those of the tourism industry or any other sector for that matter.
More often than not, these can actually be in direct conflict with those of a certain sector. For example, the land reform was a critical KRA for the government and the government committed resources and will-power to achieve it like any company will do to achieve their strategic objectives.
They also executed!
The tourism industry became one of the unfortunate casualties of this exercise. Instead of accepting this reality, the industry leaders for the past four years made pathetic efforts to fight this strategy. Meetings after meetings were convened to discuss how best to tell government not to implement what it considered its strategic objectives.
The government had their ducks in a row and knew exactly what their goals and measurables were. Suffice to say the industry failed dismally in this endeavour and the repercussions to the industry of the failure are far-reaching to this day.
Three years ago a tourism policy and master plan was announced with much fanfare in Kariba. Consultants were hired and paid handsome packages. They indeed produced a master plan outlining what needed to be done to revive the industry. The master plan and tourism policy was still-born. We only hear about it almost four years later when another new master plan is about to be launched and more consultants are to be paid!
But why are these plans failing? The answers are as clear as crystal – lack of commitment by the industry leaders and resource limitations.
Commitment: Tourism leaders earn their stripes on how much publicity and controversy they create during their terms in office not on results. Therefore pronouncing a master plan “typical of an American drama-filled with special effects” is considered a success.
Resource limitations: This is an interesting excuse you will get from both industry bodies. You do not need to be a rocket scientist to know that resources follow strategy. The reason why the two tourism bodies had no resources is simple – there was no strategy. The urgent need for a tourism policy was only mentioned two days ago, so obviously you could not expect anyone to pour in resources into the industry.
Let me give you a classic example here on this subject.
Once upon a time there was a certain cabinet minister in a certain country who realised that his country’s tourism was suffering. The tourism players could not come up with a brilliant strategy on how to promote domestic, regional and international tourism.
Despite the constraints of this minister’s highly-demanding job he set his mind to promoting his country. He set out a clear strategy of what he wanted to do, where to do it, when and how. He took personal responsibility of the exercise and galvanised resources to achieve his objective. It took him less than two months to put a strategy together and execute it. In no time the tourism industry started to see signs of recovery.
His success caught the industry leaders by surprise and they even jumped onto the bandwagon and basked in the ministry’s glory. I salute this cabinet minister! I am sure the new leadership of ZTA and ZCT can learn from this minister. It is allowed to copy the best. Jack Welch calls it legitimate plagiarism.
* Norman Moyo is Cresta Hospitality’s group sales and marketing manager. To send feedback, e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org