Safari operators feel global recession pinch

SAFARI tour operators have been hit hard by the low number of clients for this year’s hunting season owing to the global recession.

Safari Operators Association of Zimbabwe chairman, Jacob Mudenda told businessdigest   on Wednesday that the liquidity crunch which has resulted in the closure of several major business operations and thousands of job losses worldwide, had resulted in many of their traditional clients not affording to participate this season.
“There has been a poor response from hunters coming for the hunting season,” said Mudenda. “The main reason is the international credit crunch. “This means that most of them are trying to nest what they have for the essentials of life, they are just trickling in.”
Mudenda said they were now working on an aggressive marketing strategy to increase the number of hunters for next season with their main focus being the Safari Club International Convention which will be held in the United States in January.
Mudenda said they will also contact their various agents around the world to revamp the marketing of the country which has been in economic decline for more than a decade.
He however warned that all marketing strategies will be futile if there was no improvement in the global financial status.
“We have contacted our various agents around the globe to revamp the marketing of Zimbabwe but all will hinge on the international credit crunch. If that does not improve, then no matter what marketing strategy we put in place, they will not work,” Mudenda said.                               
Mudenda said the plight of safari operators was worsened by the lack of working capital since the economy was dollarised in January.
“There is no working capital because there is no money in the system after the economy was dollarised,” Mudenda said. “As long as we do not get lines of credit, our operations will continue to be affected.”
He said the association had resolved at their annual general meeting earlier this year that their membership should devise ways to continue operations despite the difficulties faced in carrying out their activities.
It was in this vein, Mudenda said, that safari operators will be scouting for strategic partners at the investor summit to be held in Harare later this year.
He said the summit which is being held by South African- based African Investor in conjunction with the Zimbabwe National Chamber of Commerce and the Ministry of Tourism and Hospitality, will provide a platform for safari operators to present their project proposals to potential investors.
 Mudenda said the formation of the inclusive government should help increase the number of clients who come for the hunting season and boost efforts to market the country as a safe destination.     
The hunting season is held annually between May and December with most hunters coming from Europe and the US.

BY KUDZAI KUWAZA