By Walter Ndlovu
While a good number of countries have made tremendous strides in the development of meaningful and sustainable township tourism, Zimbabwe has a few challenges that require overcoming in order for the nation to realise the goals and objectives township tourism.
Although the concept has gained momentum with little success in major cities, its still at its infancy stage and a lot is yet to be done to nurture its sustainability. Firstly, the necessary infrastructure required to embark on a mission to establish the basis for sustainable township tourism does not exist in any township in Zimbabwe. Just how residents in the various towns in the country would be in a position to make a living out of township tourism at the present state they are in is unimaginable.
Furthermore, to a certain degree, tourism in Zimbabwe is still generally regarded by the locals as a preserve for foreigners and those that are rich. Again, culturally, there are a number of issues that are unacceptable by the Zimbabwean way of doing things. In essence, various studies have revealed that there is an element of an imposition of township tourism to the locals by the national authorities since most of the residents are unfamiliar with the concept.
The development of township tourism across the world is often spearheaded and supported by governments and national tourism organisations. This form of tourism tends to originate from top-down decisions which are often made without any involvement of host communities. The arrival of tourists in the community then comes as a shock to residents who sometimes are not familiar with the benefits of this concept.
Therefore, a buy-in process would be necessary for the community to conceptualise the whole phenomenon of township tourism. The most effective methods to achieve this will be through seminars, workshops and training programmes where all grey areas about this concept could be ironed out to ensure that, conceptually people are talking from the same platform. A fully appraised community could be in a position to embrace the concept and aspects of township tourism positively. Mindful of the fore mentioned reasons, it is therefore recommended that, the country needs the following approach if it wishes to meaningfully establish township tourism in Zimbabwe.
- Start selling the concept to the residents most of whom seem not to understand the whole idea of this kind of tourism.
- Ensure that local people have an appreciation of how best the benefits to accrue from tourism of this nature are to be realised.
- Provide adequate information to community members to enable them to understand the levels of investment needed for one to participate meaningfully in the various sub-sectors of township tourism.
- Encourage the development of such products that are viewed as important to attract visitors to specific areas where township tourism has been found to be appropriate and needs to be promoted.
- Develop the kind of township tourism that would allow the community to maintain its sense of pride in its culture and traditions even if substantially, changes are to occur in the way of life.
- Develop the necessary infrastructure that supports the establishment of township tourism in a user friendly manner and in line with environmental best practices.
- Create the necessary brand of tourism in the community that ensures a multiplier effect to enhance and provide appropriate opportunities for employment and business for a wide range of people in the various communities.
After taking into consideration the findings from the quantitative research and the qualitative key informant interviews conducted in the targeted areas it can be concluded that tourism authorities in Zimbabwe needed to approach the re-launch of township tourism following the fundamentals of sustainable tourism development.
Township tourism is indeed a phenomenon that calls for careful planning, organisation and effective implementation to ensure success is realised. Most importantly, it requires constant monitoring, as well as evaluation if stakeholders are to reap the desired benefits. Researchers recommend the adoption of meaningful involvement of host communities and a wide range of stakeholders, amongst other ownership building strategies. Such an approach would help enhance sustainability and continuity, given that all stakeholders would collectively own the processes and the diverse benefits and results of township tourism initiatives.