Globetrotting with Mazwi Shamu is about where to go, how to go, what to do and how to do it.

But, it is not just about marketing tourism destinations and encouraging people to visit places.

That is a small fraction of it.

The main purpose is to inform and educate as well as highlight challenges within the travel and tourism industry and seek recourse and redress from relevant authorities.

Within all of that, tips for travel will be given and ultimately ensuring “Happy Travelling”.

The last two instalments, which encouraged travellers to embrace culture, ended with the observation that people are one of Zimbabwe’s “wonders”.

The people in a destination can make or break tourism.

Many times, our choice to visit certain places is influenced by the people.

For this reason, in this article, I have chosen to write an open letter to players in the tourism industry.

Recently, a draft Strategic Tourism Plan was discussed by the Permanent Secretary in the Ministry of Environment, Climate Change, Tourism and Hospitality Industry, Munesu Munodawafa, as well as tourism operators, captains of the tourism industry, the Zimbabwe Tourism Authority’s acting chief executive officer Givemore Chidzidzi, the president of Tourism Business Council of Zimbabwe Winnie Muchanyuka and her chairman Mr Paul Matamisa, as well as Minister Nqobizitha Ndlovu.

There was also a massive public audience that streamed online through various social media platforms. The meeting ended with people being assured that all contributions will be looked at and will be considered in the next draft document.

What was clear from all the discussions and presentations made was that the domestic market is going to be developed as the driving force of the re-birth of the new tourism industry post Covid-19.

Everyone appeared to be represented at the meeting.

However, no one seemed to be representing the ordinary, local person, who is, in fact, the main custodian of the domestic market.

As usual, people talked about what should be done to the destination and how it should be done; some with more emotion than others.

Others aired out their frustrations with the local tourism industry and tourism board.

In my previous articles, I introduced what I termed backyard tourism.

As a follow-up to this, I spoke about the need to respect the local environment and the culture of the people and expanded on various aspects such as conservation and the people working behind the scenes.

Most recently, I spoke about the need to embrace culture.

In this article, I stand as an advocate for the ordinary local person, who may or may not be travelling, but lives in the destination that people may be visiting.

What are they, as local people, gaining from tourism development in their destinations?

As I have travelled far and wide, what has struck me the most is the condition of the local people in some destinations, be it the Caribbean, which has some of the most stunning resorts; Zanzibar, an African dream destination, and our very own Kariba, which has got stunning and breath-taking views. But, within inches of some of these top resorts and destinations is poverty and squalour.

How is it that such popular destinations fail to address the locals within the area?

Why is there no re-investment into the local destination?

Re-investment in terms of better roads, better housing, better jobs and better living conditions.

Tourism is a low-hanging fruit and many can take advantage of that.

We talk of tourism dollars transforming economies, how about we start at home?

It is time we, as the owners of tourism within destinations, start building tourism so that it is loved and respected and not resented by the locals.

In the next instalment, we will interrogate programmes such as Campfire and their contribution to community-based tourism.

Some resorts have great community projects set up, but this, at times, is at a small scale.

When done at destination level and not at individual level, much can be achieved.

It is both a shame and an embarrassment to talk of a thriving tourism destination and yet there is abject poverty in the same destination.

The local people should be one of the biggest tourism stakeholders.

They are allowing tourism to happen in their backyard.

Let’s show them some respect and give them some love.

Love in the form of jobs, in promoting their businesses, in giving them better standards of living as well as education.

Pride will come naturally to the people in the destination when they understand and they are involved. Backyard tourism will be effortless.

There are many unexplored places within Zimbabwe and it is the local person who will need to be the frontrunner through showing tourists around.

As we return to some kind of normalcy, I make a plea to travel and tourism organisations not to forget their local communities.

I urge them to push for better standards of living in their communities.

After all, it is these communities that will ensure “Happy Travelling”.

#Travel Tomorrow #Happy Travelling

Mazwi Shamu is a teacher and travel and tourism consultant and blogger. She can be reached on 0712893354 or [email protected]