Friday, February 26, 2010

(HERALD) Tourism directory: The one-stop shop

Tourism directory: The one-stop shop

CAN any one mental snapshot summarise the Zimbabwean tourism experience and help a tourist outside Zimbabwe know where to get what without any complexities?

At least 110 000 elephant roam wild and free, thousands of lions also roam wild and free where they hunt their prey in a perfect theatre of the jungle, while on the rivers the hippos moo and crocodiles snap their jaws to catch their a sudden sluggishness.

Elsewhere hunters go for their best trophy, tourists visit gothic ancient cities while others explore the balancing rocks and other geomorphological products.

Human beings have built their business empires around the splendour and grandeur of the country’s vast swathes of geomorphology, flora and fauna.

For these businesses to thrive they must attract tourists from the length and breath of the planet to come and see what nature’s exhaustless generosity has bestowed upon Zimbabwe.

Zimbabwe is truly a tourist destination without peer, from the rolling moorlands to craggy mountains, verdant parks, a wilderness teeming with wildlife, cascading and plunging waterfalls, modern hotels, hunting escapades, canoeing, fishing and ancient ruins, among other tapestries.

Being endowed with all the attractions that makes it one of the most attractive tourist destinations, from Victoria Falls to Mana Pools, Gonarezhou, Eastern Highlands, Matopos, Vumba, Great Zimbabwe and Harare itself, Zimbabwe has been let down by a disjointed approach to tourism marketing, promotion and development.

There is no one-stop shop to tell a tourist who is who and where is what?

This week, though, there has been a development that should bolster Zimbabwe’s tourism marketing matrix and this is the compilation of the country’s print and on-line who is who, the Zimbabwe Tourism Directory.

The Zimbabwe Business Directory has come up with a project to produce a unique directory, the first ever tourism directory in Zimbabwe designed in a non-traditional A-Z format.

After a decade of economic hardships, general business decline and loss of traditional tourism markets, the directory is going to be a handy tool that should at once show the tourist who is who and what is where in the tourism industry.

Zim business development executive Mr George Musanhu, author of The Zimbabwe Travel Bible; Best Places to See, is behind the project that will be printed and distributed for free by May 2010 to coincide with the World Cup soccer extravaganza slated for South Africa.

"The idea is to bring all tourism stakeholders under one roof and confirm all stakeholders’ addresses and phone numbers that have changed over the years. But we will bring order in the market by only listing stakeholders who are registered by the Zimbabwe Tourism Authority.

"Some businesses are now using cell phones and e-mail addresses that never existed before.

"We are creating a ground-breaking, easy-to-use directory with unique format and layout,’’ says Mr Musanhu.

To internationalise the directory the format is made in line with European and South African standards so that it provides the platform where potential travellers may come to one web site and get all the information on Zimbabwe and its tourism offerings.

There will be several categories such as accommodation, eating out, Travelling, diplomatic missions, financial institutions, beauty lifestyle and related maps so that one does not get lost.

Tourism stakeholders with websites can link their on-line sites to the directory for easy reference while those without will have a page dedicated on the on-line directory where they can put comprehensive information about themselves.

There will also be provision for updating information upon change of premises and phones so that the details remain correct.

What makes the directory handy and convenient is that tourists can phone, e-mail or visit the directory website and access all of Zimbabwe’s registered tourism companies.

This is by far the greatest opportunity for Zimbabwe to give out information of all its tourism stakeholders under one roof or one engine. The industry might not have any other opportunity to develop a directory that is so comprehensive.

The tourism product is there in the form of all the attractions we have but the product can only be marketed through a holistic approach. The tourism directory is the way. Let us go for it.

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