Nkosilathi Sibanda, Business Correspondent
UNITED Nations World Tourism Organisation (UNWTO) regional vice-president Mr Cuthbert Ncube has said it is high time Zimbabwe promotes township tourism as it has emerged as the fastest growing tourist activity in Africa.
Mr Ncube said township tourism presents an untapped market that has enormous potential to boost revenue inflows.
The Ministry of Hospitality and Tourism and the Zimbabwe Tourism Authority (ZTA) initiated the concept of township tourism in 2012 but few players have dared to grab the opportunity and offer such a service.
In an interview, Mr Ncube highlighted 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 continents.
Drawing examples from the widely visited townships of South Africa’s famous Soweto, Mr Ncube said the local urban landscape is not different from its southern neighbour.
He said, if managed well, township tourism can bring results and promote sustainable development in marginalised areas.
“Townships are the nerve of urban life. It has been noticed that tourists are shifting from the usual activities and focusing on townships with a rich history.
In fact, township tourism is fast emerging as the most sought after by visitors in Africa.
Zimbabwe can adopt the concept of township tourism and realise benefits that will grow the economy. More importantly communities gain as well. This is what we call sustainable tourism.
Given the need to promote regional tourism in Southern Africa and extending that to international travellers, Zimbabwe has to invest much on marketing township tourism.
“In South Africa, as many tourists opt to spend time and money in Soweto, learning about history and appreciating the township life that they rarely find in other countries.
But, we are not that different from South Africa, there is a potential that local industry can benefit. With township tourism, this country has a vast history and scenery that an international tourist yearns for,” said Mr Ncube.
In Bulawayo townships that stand out to be leading tourist attractions are Makokoba, Pumula, Mzilikazi, Magwegwe, Njube, Iminyela, Mabutweni and Pelandaba. The UNWTO official said if players in the hospitality industry are really focused on growth, investing in township tourism is the way to go.
“Let us first look at the figures at hand. In South Africa township tourism is a major contributor to the economy. Isn’t that a point worthy to note and copy from.
In our midst we have Makokoba township in Bulawayo, a place so rich with history and full of life that any visitor to the country would love to experience. I cannot overemphasise on other towns around the country. It is high time we tap into this market. Where tourists spend time is of importance to how they enjoy their trip. It is therefore increasingly important that we maximise on that,” Mr Ncube said.
He added that township tourism was in line with initiatives adopted by the UNWTO.
“In my view, so much has been said about marketing the African Safari but why not tap into other areas like township tourism? The UNWTO has adopted a plan that member countries can follow in having packages that are new and promote sustainable economic growth.
“It encompasses the creation of new companies, bringing development in previously underlooked places. Above all, when tourism businesses thrive at the heart of where people live, it means we are contributing to employment creation, preservation of culture and diversity as well as promoting integration.”
Mr Ncube said the major setback with African tourism lies in the failure by countries that do not tailor make tourism packages to suit Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), as called for by the United Nations.
Hospitality and Tourism minister Prisca Mupfumira said sustainable tourism should be at the forefront of planning and that players must take heed in offering new packages for the visitor.
“Tourism is dynamic with phenomenal potential in Africa. If we manage it properly, it can contribute immensely to diversification and inclusion for vulnerable communities. With the same thinking Zimbabwe and Angola will sign a memorandum of association anytime soon. Zimbabwe is open for business and must return to be the preferred tourist destination,” she said.