The Sunday News
Nkosilathi Sibanda, Business Correspondent
THE most visited locations in the world have one thing in common that sets them apart from other tourist destinations, and that is cleanliness.
In its list of factors that draw tourists, the United Nations World Tourism Organisation (UNWTO) counts cleanliness at the top. With the recently launched national clean-up campaign spearheaded by President Emmerson Mnangagwa, the tourism sector is confident of reaping rewards if the levels of cleanliness appeal to both local and international visitors.
President Mnangagwa and First Lady Auxillia Mnangagwa have been leading from the front to promote the clean-up campaign. The exercise has of late gripped the entire tourism sector with as many participated in this massive environment clean-up campaign in communities they operate.
The operation, according to different tourism actors in public and private domain, has been the charm offensive, the right tonic to lure the world. This comes at a time when already the country is listed as one of the top three travel destinations in the world.
Hospitality and Tourism Minister Priscah Mupfumira said the clean-up campaign was well timed and opened windows to investment opportunities. She highlighted the strength of pulling resources and desire for a worthy cause as shown by the multi-stakeholder participation.
“Stakeholder participation in environmental management is surely the cornerstone of both tourism and environmental sustainability.”
The activity, set to be done on the first Friday of every month, aligns with section 73 of the Constitution which provides for environmental rights which every person should enjoy by living in a clean, safe and healthy environment.
“This clean-up exercise encourages all to be environmentally conscious and at the same time know that a clean environment attracts tourists and helps enhance brand Zimbabwe,” Minister Mupfumira said in an interview.
Hospitality Association of Zimbabwe (HAZ) president Mr Innocent Manyera said the exercise is part of the package that can easily sell Brand Zimbabwe.
“The clean-up campaign is a noble idea. If we are to attract tourists and investors, our surroundings have to be clean. It is not beneficial on the economic side only, but to the general health and wellness of the nation and its visitors. Cleanliness is paramount because we cannot boast of having the best hospitality if the environment is dirty.
“We need a culture of being proud of being associated with cleanliness as Zimbabweans. Imagine how bad it is to have a beautiful and well furnished hospitality establishment in the middle of dirt and slum? So, for tourism to succeed we need a very clean environment. Overall it all boils down to sustainable tourism,” he said.
Players in the tourism sector said there is need to do more in cleaning up communities.
Leading hospitality player Mrs Beauty Bhulu of Glen Lodge said “cleanliness is the face of the community that strives to lure visitors.”
She said: “By its very nature, a clean environment excites. It forms part of what we call the façade of a place, where travellers or tourists are introduced to what lies behind. If Zimbabwe does these clean-up campaigns religiously as what we have witnessed, then it is safe to say we are headed for growth in tourism. Let us bear in mind that in this industry cleanliness is a golden rule. In fact, cleanliness is next to Godliness. When we live in clean communities, it gives a lasting impression to tourists and leaves a sentimental value to our destinations.”
She underscored that such national clean-up initiatives heavily promote ecotourism.
“Besides other benefits, clean environments give a great deal of importance in conserving the environment. What makes us proud of this programme as tourism players is that it puts us closer to the needs of communities while drawing lessons on how to better package our products.
“If we mean to build a sound tourism brand, practicing cleanliness will also alleviate poverty through opportunities for economic growth and create jobs.”
A conservationist, Mr Langton Masunda opines that if communities participate and are made aware of the benefits of a clean environment, there is bound to be a change in fortunes even for the safari and hunting business.
“There is a ripple effect benefit as communities start to attract attention from international visitors at the same time reaping rewards of the economic activities derived. Being clean is next to conserving our environment and that leads to maintenance of biodiversity and the ecosystem, which our tourism is heavily pinned on.”
Tourism analysts say clean communities are in line with the country’s on-going green tourism concept that was mooted in 2014 with the aim of promoting sustainable tourism as guided by the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).