Culture Promotes Tourism

Next month, Zimbabwe will join other countries in the world in commemorating the World Tourism Day at a time when the country’s tourism and hospitality industry is waking up from a slumber induced by illegal economic sanctions imposed by the West.

The fact that the inclusive Government has earmarked tourism as one of the six pillars of economic recovery means the country must take advantage of world events that mark the day.

Zimbabwe has the tourism tapestries, it has the tourist attractions of world standards and it is by far one of the safest tourist destinations in the world.

Zimbabwe is beautiful and attractive in its own right.

The industry, led by the Zimbabwe Tourism Authority, National Parks and Wildlife Management Authority and National Museums and Monuments of Zimbabwe, has managed to maintain the country’s tourist attractions intact.

ZTA chief executive Mr Karikoga Kaseke has managed to convince the industry to turn the entire month of September into the tourism month, through various activities that put the country in the limelight.

He has also come up with a concept paper that defines tourism in Zimbabwe, in terms of growth and investment. The World Tourism Day is commemorated worldwide annually on September 27 as the General Assembly of the World Tourism Organisation seeks to foster awareness among the international community of the importance of tourism and its social, cultural, political and economic values.

The day is celebrated by tourism enterprises and various organisations through participating in events on themes selected by the General Assembly of the UNWTO.

Zimbabwe’s Tourism and Hospitality Industry Minister Walter Mzembi is a member of the UNTWO executive committee, which places Zimbabwe at an advantage as its sits on the politburo of the world tourism board.

Zimbabwe should, therefore, take advantage of its influence and lure many influential people, through the ZTA’s perception management programme.

It is important to note that at its 12th session in Istanbul, Turkey, in October 1997, the UNWTO General Assembly decided to designate a host country each year in geographical order as the organisation’s partner for celebrating world tourism day.

In October 2009, during the 18th session in Astana, Kazakhstan, the UNWTO endorsed the 2010 theme for World Tourism Day as “Tourism and Biodiversity”.

It also put forward that the 2011 World Tourism Day be celebrated under the theme “Tourism Linking Cultures” as culture plays an integral role in tourism development. The main celebrations for this year will be held in Yemen.

The theme for this year is a celebration of tourism’s role in breaking down barriers across cultures and fostering tolerance, respect and mutual understanding.

In an often-divided world, these values represent the stepping stones towards a more peaceful future and Zimbabwe should take advantage of that.

Every people and every place possess a unique culture. Experiencing different ways of life, discovering new food and customs and visiting cultural sites have become leading motivations for travel, and as a result, a crucial source of revenue and job creation, particularly for developing countries.

Income from tourism is often redirected towards the safeguarding of these sites and even the revitalisation of cultures. Yet tourism growth brings serious responsibilities to minimise any potentially negative impacts on the cultural assets and heritage of mankind.

This year’s tourism day has been defined as an international call to all those involved in tourism to act in a way that is conscious and respectful of culture, which promotes intercultural dialogue and ensures that local communities fully participate in, and benefit from, the development opportunities of tourism.

Tourism is one of the largest and dynamic developing sectors of external economic activities.

Its growth and development rates considerable volumes of foreign currency inflows, infrastructure development and introduction of new management and educational experience actively affect various sectors of the economy.

The Zimbabwean economy is no exception.

The recent tourism development has helped promote closer ties and peace among its people, creating a conscience that is peaceful of the diversity of culture and lifestyles. Cultural tourism is one of the largest and fastest growing global tourism markets.

Culture and creative industries are increasingly being used to promote destinations and enhance their competitiveness and attractiveness.
Many locations are now actively developing their tangible and intangible cultural assets as a means of developing comparative advantages in an increasingly competitive tourism marketplace and to create local distinctiveness in the face of globalisation.

The linkage between the two has helped promote places such as Great Zimbabwe, Victoria Falls, Chinhoyi Caves, as well as increasing their competitiveness as locations to live, visit, work and invest in.

Tourism contributes to culture while culture promotes tourism. It generates revenue for cultural activities and attractions, thus it has stimulated a rise in the interest in cultural heritage with the number of visitors growing phenomenally.

If not for tourism much of the nation’s heritage would have remained in ruins or even lost forever.

While the world celebrates World Tourism Day, Zimbabwe should be proud of its tourism offerings both man-made and those sired by geomorphology.