By Walter Ndlovu
Although the phenomenon has gained momentum in the country and whilst it has been perceived as a substantial and attractive economic sector, residents have voiced their dissatisfaction with regard to inequitable participation by the township community.
A research conducted in the township of Emganwini and Nketa found out that over 90% of the locals were unable to appreciate how they could effectively benefit from this initiative. The research also identified some knowledge gaps resulting from lack of effective sensitisation and buy-in from the local communities.
The research revealed that tourism policy makers tend to conceal the negative impacts of tourism from host communities and attempt to develop the industry at all costs to solve chronic macroeconomic problems and maximise interests for small number of local people.
Township residents argued that their consent to tourism development can only be informed if they are in possession of all the facts, including the long term negative impacts of any proposed tourism project. In this case, empowering local people to take decisions, which promote a type of scale tourism development that allows them to uphold, respect and nurture their cultures and share in the economic benefits of tourism development is however, key to the sustainability of township tourism.
Many residents endorsed Dogan’s (1989) allegation that the benefits of tourism do not accrue equitably to the host population. They claim that there is insufficient evidence of the espoused tourism benefits and that whilst there is much talk around tourism, and tourists are in evidence in the township, the majority of local residents do not see the rewards. Some residents went an extra mile to argue that African culture was being commercialised and claimed that ‘certain locals sell or trivialise their culture to tourists to make a profit’.
As a result, it is highly recommended that the government of Zimbabwe should engage the grassroots so that it can be a win-win situation. This came from the fact that residents felt the government was gaining at their expense.
Dogan, H. Z. (1989) Forms of adjustment: Sociocultural impacts of tourism. Annals of Tourism Research 16 (2), 216-236.