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Township Tourism: The Beating Heart of Zimbabwe

Tourism is one of Zimbabwe’s low-hanging fruit for the country’s economic growth and it is steadily recovering sector of late. As a crucial growth sector in Zimbabwe, a source of foreign currency and job creation it contributed 15% to Zimbabwe’s gross domestic product in 2018 from the 8%, receiving five billion in receipts and employing 300 000 directly and indirectly.

The landlocked country’s tourism still remains a ‘locked’ market. As much there are destinations like Victoria Falls, Kariba, Matopos, but, as a country, it is barely scratching the surface when it comes to cashing in on tourism generally, especially on Township tourism.

Recently, guided by the theme “unlocking the value of township economies through tourism” the Zimbabwe Tourism Authority (ZTA) hosted a stakeholder workshop in Mbare, one of Zimbabwe’s townships, to discuss how the industry can be embraced within the local community and be developed in a similar way its neighbors across the Limpopo, South Africa, did where it has credibly become a vital cog of the tourism sector.

Addressing stakeholders at the township tourism workshop the ZTA chief operating officer Givemore Chidzidzi, said; “Township tourism presents an unexploited market that has a massive potential to boost revenue inflows.
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 parts of the world.

“Mbare is a pot of cultures for the various African people settled in the suburb thus township tours conducted in that suburb will expose the visitor to a rich cultural heritage of the people living in Mbare.

“Various trades that are plied in Mbare Musika, the heart of the economy of the residents have the capability to generate interest from tourists.”

“It is our duty to market and promote this destination. There are conditions we are looking at as ZTA together with other stakeholders like ZimParks and Wildlife Authority, Harare City Council and National Museum and Monument of Zimbabwe in terms of improving transport, communication and infrastructural development for the comfort of our tourists.

“Township tourism as it stands incorporates the creation of new companies, bringing development in previously unnoticed places. Most importantly, when tourism businesses flourish in communities where people live, it means there is employment creation, culture preservation, and diversity as well as promoting integration,” said Chidzidzi.

As a Pro-Poor Tourism (PPT) township tourism increases net benefits for poor people. It enhances the linkages between tourism businesses and poor people so that tourism’s contribution to poverty reduction is increased.
The Zimbabwe Tourism Authority tries to implement PPT by providing tourists with the chance to learn about the country and its history in an authentic way.

Two of South Africa’s biggest townships Khayelitsha and Soweto provide to an extent to which local communities are involved in and benefit from these tours in townships.

However, ZTA’s township tourism initiative will be boosted tremendously if the mindset of township residents is changed so that they no longer view tourists simply as curious onlookers but as investors in the townships. In that way, every resident who comes across a tourist will always be ready and willing to assist. More importantly, every resident will view himself or herself as a potential businessperson with a product to offer the tourists.

The so-called slum tourism in countries like Brazil and India has become a serious generator of revenue – to the extent that international conferences are now held regularly to ensure that this tourism sector develops to its full potential. The greatest aspect will always be to emphasize the economic growth benefits that this tourism generates.

To completely revive a sector that can generate much-needed revenue, simply, township tourism remains a gold mine waiting to be explored.

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