By Wallace Mawire
HARARE-Zimbabwe’s tourism sector has been urged to consider reviewing prices all round and put in place a competitive pricing model in order to compete effectively with regional competitors to attract overseas tourists.
The 2016 first quarter tourism performance overview released by the Zimbabwe Tourism Authority (ZTA) notes that putting in place a competitive pricing model would attract overseas tourists with the country becoming a main destination and increasing the length of stay and total spend by tourists.
Some of the concerns raised in the performance overview indicate for example that most of American tourists entered Zimbabwe from Zambia, whilst a significant number entered Zimbabwe from Botswana.
“Research has shown that prices of goods and services are generally cheaper in Zambia than in Zimbabwe, which could be one of the pull factors for the Americans,” ZTA said.
The tourism promotion organisation says that research shows that Zimbabwe is being considered as an add-on destination.
“There seems to be a bigger preference for Zambia which offers a similar tourism product to Zimbabwe,” ZTA said.
It is also reported that given the iconic status of Victoria Falls and that it is Zimbabwe’s flagship tourism resort, arrival trends into the region are worrisome as they show massive movement of tourists entering from neighbouring Botswana and Zambia passing through Zimbabwe.
“It is well known that Zimbabwe presents the best viewing side of Victoria Falls, hence urgent interventions are needed to ensure a more even distribution of tourist arrivals with Zimbabwe’s two neighbours and competitors,’ ZTA added.
The organisation says that the situation requires implementation of robust marketing programmes by Zimbabwe in key source markets.
It says that this is going to be very difficult as the authority gets over 90% of its funding from tourism levies collected by operators whose businesses are shrinking.
Dr MisheckSibanda, Chief Secretary to the President and Cabinet told delegates at a recent stakeholders meeting on the ease of doing business in the tourism sector that Zimbabwe’s tourism products are overpriced in the context of fierce regional competition, affecting the industry’s viability and growth.
“Some tourism operators are still utilising the Zimbabwe dollar pricing model despite changes in economic fundamentals such as low inflation and current stable prices,” Dr Sibanda said.
He added that government of Zimbabwe is encouraging the use of plastic money for payment of tourist products and services given the short-term situation of cash shortages. He also said the issue of international cards which adversely limit tourism expenditure in most resort areas will also need to be addressed.
“This includes the promotion of the use of other currencies in the basket of currencies such as the rand as per the monetary policy,” Dr Sibanda added.