The tourism sector is one of the low hanging fruits that have huge potential to provide quick economic turnaround solutions and Government is leaving no stone unturned to ensure the sector becomes one of the major foreign currency earners.
Government is hoping to make the best of tourism ambassadors to boost arrivals in the country in a bid to improve the tourism sector’s contribution to the fiscus and foster economic revival.
The largely sentiment based tourism sector is one of the key strategic low hanging fruits earmarked to spur economic revival and the attainment of Vision 2030 by which Zimbabwe should be an upper middle-income economy as set by President Mnangagwa.
Speaking in Harare at the unveiling of Africa’s most capped super rugby player, Tendai “The Beast” Mtawarira as a Zimbabwe Tourism ambassador on Wednesday, Environment, Tourism and Hospitality Industry Minister Priscah Mupfumira, said the country is hopeful that ambassadors will play a big part towards the attainment of this year’s target.
The Zimbabwean born Mtawarira who, however, went on to play international rugby for South Africa, is a decorated international sports star with 154 caps for the Sharks.
With 107 caps under his belt, he is also the most capped prop in South African rugby history and was the first black springbok to play over 100 tests for South Africa.
He is expected to use the influence of his sport-gained global fame to market destination Zimbabwe, which is this year targeting to grow its tourists arrivals from 2, 5 million visitors last year to 3 million this year.
Mtawarira joins a stellar cast of Zimbabwe Tourism ambassadors among them American actress and playwright Danai Gurura, South African music icon PJ Powers, United States TV personality Dr Chanita Foster and German-based mbira diva Virginia Mukwesha.
“The concept of tourism brand ambassadors is widely used as a tool for promoting many destinations across the globe,” said Minister Mupfumira on Wednesday.
“People are appointed tourism ambassadors for their ability to significantly contribute to the promotion of destinations with the main objective of increasing tourism traffic.
“Tourism ambassadors could be nationals of Zimbabwe or non-nationals for which the titles would be Tourism Ambassador for the former and Honorary Tourism Ambassador for the latter. The term of office varies from a minimum period of a year to a period as determined by my ministry.
“The person chosen must have excelled in a particular discipline, be it sport, music, art, business, beauty pageants or charity work thereby giving them influence on the international arena,” the Minister said.
Zimbabwe Tourism Authority (ZTA) acting chief executive officer Rita Likukuma said Mtawarira will make a positive impact.
“Global trend in tourism today calls for destinations to appoint Tourism Ambassadors as advocates for the destination offerings,” said Likukum.
“Given all his fame on the global rugby arena, he has remained grounded.
“His humility is worth admiring and his involvement with two major charities here in Zimbabwe, both committed to helping children in school and sport has earned himself the status of philanthropist.
“His love for Zimbabwe shines through his dedication and hard work and above all leading by example on whatever he does in his life,” she said.
Tourism is expected to play a key role towards the country’s economic revival prospects together with other key sectors such as mining and agriculture, it has been declared.
However, there have been concerns that the local tourism body (ZTA) has not been doing much in marketing the destination Zimbabwe to the extent that some tour operators in South Africa have been marketing Victoria Falls as their package.
This has seen the increase of day one tourists, who have significantly increased the arrival figures that have, however, failed to boost the country’s revenues.
Watchers in the sector say there is a need to come up with packages that encourage tourists from many destinations to stay in Zimbabwean hotels for weeks, in the process earning the country more and also marketing the country’s culture.