Kumbirai Tarusarira and Michael Tome
The Zimbabwe Tourism Authority (ZTA) continues to direct its efforts towards the advancement of township tourism and last week the organisation took to the streets of Mbare to promote the suburb as a tourist destination.
Ministry of Environment, Tourism and Hospitality Industry in collaboration with ZTA introduced the concept of township tourism in 2012, but few players have grabbed the opportunity.
This is a pro–poor approach to tourism development that results in increased net benefits for the underprivileged.
An initiative of this kind has been paying dividend in South Africa for a considerable time now after it was successfully implemented in the two biggest townships of Khayelitsha and Soweto.
Guided by the theme “unlocking the value of township economies through tourism” the ZTA hosted a stakeholder workshop in Mbare to discuss how tourism can be embraced within the local community and be developed in a similar way South Africa did just across the Limpopo, where it has credibly become a vital cog of tourism sector.
Addressing stakeholders at the township tourism workshop the ZTA chief operating officer Givemore Chidzidzi, said; “Township tourism presents an unexploited market that has massive potential to boost revenue inflows.
“Mbare has been a destination for a lot of international visitors because of its history and favourable cultural attributes such as its Arts and Crafts centres.”
Mr Chidzidzi revealed that township tourism is unique to Africa as tourists from the developed world are seeking urban spaces with a rich human history that is rarely found in other parts of the world.
“Mbare is a pot of cultures for the various African people settled in the suburb thus township tours conducted in that suburb will expose the visitor to a rich cultural heritage of the people living in Mbare.
“Various trades that are plied in Mbare Musika, the heart of the economy of the residents have the capability to generate interest from tourists.”
“It is our duty to market and promote this destination. There are conditions we are looking at as ZTA together with other stakeholders like ZimParks and Wildlife Authority, Harare City Council and National Museum and Monument of Zimbabwe in terms of improving transport, communication and infrastructural development for the comfort of our tourists.
“Township tourism as it stands incorporates the creation of new companies, bringing development in previously unnoticed places. Most importantly, when tourism businesses flourish in communities where people live, it means there is employment creation, culture preservation and diversity as well as promoting integration,” said Chidzidzi.
This development comes hot on the heels of yet another ZTA initiative that seeks to develop the Joshua Nkomo heritage trails into fully-fledged tourism product, which will document and provide a narrative that will enhance the rich history of this nation.
Heritage and tourism trails are new tourism products in Africa and globally, that are designed to take tourists on a historic memory lane involving a symbolic event or person.
Global statistics from the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organisation(UNESCO), Statistical Unit and United Nations World Tourism Organisation (UNWTO) have indicated that heritage tourism contributes more than 40 percent to world tourism arrivals.