Nkosilathi Sibanda, Sunday News Correspondent
THE Zimbabwe Tourism Authority (ZTA) has initiated a programme to empower rural communities through the recently unveiled heritage tourism programme that is envisaged to create jobs and improve livelihoods.
Heritage tourism, with its emphasis on touring to places of historical and cultural significance long has been put as a priority in marketing the country following Government’s approval to fund the Ministry of Hospitality and Tourism’s enshrinement initiative.
ZTA head of Corporate Affairs Mr Godfrey Koti said already they have identified five places, all located in rural areas, which would be promoted under the heritage tourism package.
“We are on a drive to market all places of historical significance that are dotted all over the country. This is about packaging our history. It is pleasing to note that Government has backed the project. It is recognition of the value of heritage tourism in reviving business in the country. The Zimbabwe Tourism Authority has planned to make these areas selling points in our brand Zimbabwe campaign. These are exciting times to the tourism sector because we foresee a boom in terms of revenue to rural communities and the creation of jobs as people start to visit heritage sites,” said Mr Koti.
He said top on the list is the Trabablas trail in Masvingo where President Emmerson Mnangagwa and Comrade Matthew Malowa blew up a Rhodesian steam locomotive in 1964 during his days as part of the crocodile gang.
The site is named after President Mnangagwa’s liberation war name, ‘‘Trabablas Dzokerai Mabhunu’’.
“Already five places have been identified as key marketing locations and these include Old Bulawayo site, the Pupu Shangani in Matabeleland North, Tangwena Village in Manicaland, Masvingo’s Trabablas trail and the Chinhoyi battle site.
“There are many sites and we are going to promote them. The plan is broad and as we market, more places would be reached in the next month. It is an advantage to tour operators as well.”
Mr Koti said ZTA is working with locals based in these areas to help communities develop and interest in supporting tourism.
“There is no way we can ignore the value of tourism to local communities. In as much as the industry benefits, so do villagers around these sites. It is ZTA’s view that locals are empowered so that they have an interest in helping us market Zimbabwe better. We are planning to work with publicity associations, teachers and culture experts in all areas known to have a historical site. “If tourists travel to see the piece of the Berlin Wall in Germany, why should they not come learn about our heritage too? It is upon every stakeholder in the tourism sector to support the call by the Minister of Hospitality and Tourism Cde Prisca Mupfumira to prioritise heritage tourism.”
According to the ZTA, the campaign on heritage tourism was part of the Ministry of Tourism and Hospitality’s 100 day plan.
Heritage tourism is perceived as one of the major development opportunities for Africa. In a study conducted in South Africa by the University of Zululand titled Cultural Heritage Tourism in South Africa: Perceived a Panacea for Rural Development, it was noted that if locals are involved in cultural heritage tourism development, there are likely to gain more.