The tourism and hospitality industry in Zimbabwe is one of the significant earners of revenue in general and foreign currency in particular. Last year our tourism sector raked in at least US$1 billion in revenue which is expected to exceed US$2 billion this current year. The year 2018 saw a total of almost 3 million tourist arrivals locally. Over 10% of the total global GDP comes from tourism industries; whereas in the past 10 years, over 10% of total global net jobs (direct or indirect) created were from tourism industries. With regards to total global investments, roughly 9% are in this tourism & hospitality industry.
According to the World Economic Forum’s Global Tourism Competitiveness Report, last year Zimbabwe had an overall ranking of position 128 out of 140 countries (with a score of 42.6 out of 100). Our overall economic index rating had a score of 43 out of 100 & our tourism infrastructure index rating put as at position 122 out of 140 countries. It is against that background that I’m discussing some local business opportunities in this industry because it needs a facelift.
I’m talking of documentaries, blogs & vlogs in particular. I know efforts have been & are still being put into selling the Zimbabwean brand out there but not enough is being done. If you do high-quality documentaries you can actually sell them to reputable satellite TV channels. Blogs & vlogs are new age & trending these days; they have several revenue models to employ with the main one being affiliate marketing (ads placement in general). Zimbabwe is a topical country the world over which tends to suffer false & negative publicity. So an endeavour to chronicle what it really is especially through blogs & vlogs is a huge business initiative.
I highlighted earlier that our tourism infrastructure ranking last year was position 122 out of 140. That means there is lots of business potential in that domain. Government through the tourism ministry has been indicating that they want to foster more tourist arrivals. They have also indicated the need for the proliferation of cultural tourism & cultural villages. If you are to make a mark here think of off-the-grid sustainable eco-friendly accommodation, campsites, vacation properties etc (in the catchment areas of tourist attractions). Green initiatives are now a global trend and a more preferred approach so think also along the lines of leveraging on solar energy to power these accommodation units. Think outside the box like, for instance, mobile homes or refurbished container-based homes etc.
Mobile & Web Apps
Not too long ago we saw the introduction of the Accoleisure app for the local tourism industry; we need more products or services like that in this arena. A lot of money can be made from developing apps that facilitate value-added services for the tourism industry. Right now we don’t even have a national e-platform that catalogues all our tourism sites in detail. Most tourist sites don’t even have apps that can publicize their operations and so on. The opportunities are endless here. Software & app developers stand to make good money in this industry. Majority of in-bound tourists come from well-advanced & tech savvy countries – we need to keep up.
We have very few travel agencies presently and most of them cover a small scope leaving the majority of prospective tourists (local or foreign) unattended to. For a lot of tourists it’s hard to find a local travel agency that is one-stop and can facilitate a complete tourist experience here. We need more players in this regard who will leverage on new technologies, social media & present trends. A travel agency isn’t even really that capital intensive to start if you properly harness the power of the internet. You don’t require brick & mortar facilities because you can effectively start operating with just a one-roomed office. Essentially you’ll be employing the brokerage revenue model which is quite profitable if you are adept at management.
Food & Beverages Services
You can target e.g. retail or catering services. You can strategically penetrate by introducing local cuisines (ethnic dishes) &/or foreign cuisines and doing deliveries for retail aspects. Remember most tourist attractions are isolated from such services. Enterprising & creative young people can really establish themselves here. I know of many young graduates with tourism & hospitality qualifications who are just seated at home. Did you know that food & beverages alone accounted for at least US$600 billion in revenue for the US tourism industry last year – it’s a big domain.
Graphic designers, illustrators, photographers, videographers, web developers etc, this industry needs you. Most tourist resorts don’t have up-to-scratch branding that is appealing in light of this new age of internet use & social media. This is a very lucrative business domain for the tech savvy; especially if they partner with marketing people they can build powerful branding companies.
This is wide-ranging from shuttles to pick-and-drops, car hire, service/repairs. It’s obvious most tourists come into the country by plane so the need and demand for transport services exists.
Art & Crafts
I have a buddy who does art and crafts in the Harare CBD. What I have learnt from his business is how low-cost it is to get raw materials and coming up with finished products. He actually prefers to sell his works at tourist attractions because he says they fetch more money there. I have plans to invest in his business to facilitate that and up-scale of production. I see a lot of business potential in the art & crafts domain.
These are some of the opportunities available – the list is endless. The government desperately wants to see the tourism industry growing because of its contribution to forex inflows. Thus, any business initiatives that’ll foster growth of the industry will indeed be welcome.