TOURISM is one of the major drivers of community development. When Zimbabwe’s Tourism Policy of 2013 was adopted, one of its objectives was to promote the concept of rural tourism or community-based tourism (CBT).
Any community with a public resource like wildlife reserve, natural landscape or a heritage site can venture into a CBT enterprise. Since the initiative isn’t accustomed to most communities, it might be good if we manage to discuss some challenges that CBT face.
Conflict of ownership
Usually, a CBT enterprise is directed by a designated committee. When the whole or some members of the selected committee feel that they deserve greater share of privileges than others, those who feel sidelined may start working towards the demise of the business.
When discontented members grumble, they can campaign against the initiative to tourists. Since tourists’ focal point of visiting is leisure not embroiling in community politics, they will certain opt for another tourist destination in their impending visit.
Ownership conflicts give competitors mileage. They can use such clashes to discredit the CBT venture so that they can enjoy monopoly. NGOs who would have funded capacity building at the CBT project may withdraw from further funding. Without funding, a CBT initiative may fail to sustain itself at its early stage.
Another form of conflict that can rise is that of land rights. As with most development projects in Zimbabwe, some natives might feel that establishment of a project is stripping them of ‘their family’ inheritance. Such families may throw spanners in the CBT enterprise progress so that they can “repossess” the land in concern.
Exorbitant council levies
Sometimes a rural district council (RDC) may impose levies that may prohibit progress of a CBT enterprise. A RDC should not regard a CBT enterprise as a cash cow to finance its other operations. At least a RDC should charge reasonable than exorbitant taxes and levies.
A CBT might be established in an area where there are poor roads and damaged bridges. Such infrastructure might cause an area to be inaccessible during bad weather days.
The wet, rainy season can be curse to a CBT entity’s operations if the local government does not improve infrastructure like earth roads and bridges.
Poor mobile network
Most communal areas a rocked by poor mobile network that contacting CBT staff for business might be a whale of difficult task. Tourism business is viable if conducted in real time. Poor mobile network defeats progress of a CBT initiative.
Lack of expertise in tourism and business practices
Sometimes CBT staff may lack expertise in tourism and business practices. A CBT may come to collapse not because it is not viable but because the managing committee is too conservative. Business trends are changing by day.
Faced with such, the committee might choose to suppress fresh business ideas in a bid to protect personal interests ahead of business security. A worse scenario is when a committee refuses to incorporate a new shareholder for cash injection when the CBT enterprise’s cash flow is in deficiency.
On the other hand, people with the required tourism expertise might refuse to work in a rural setup preferring urban environment. Most experienced staff finds it a prestige to work for an internationally renowned tourism company than a CBT enterprise. Semi experienced staff might fail to offer quality service.
Poor marketing techniques
A CBT enterprise may just wait for the central government to market its tourist destination. To expect that all of its clientele base will be reached through marketing by a third party like Zimbabwe Tourism Authority is too risky.
In this wake of e-commerce, social media platform such as Facebook, WhatsApp, Twitter and others might be cheaper to utilise for a CBT enterprise. Mass media platforms might be considered when the CBT is now viable.
Also, enough check should be made to see if the social media campaigns are bringing results. Tourists from foreign lands might require a different approach than social media only. That is where online media channel should be considered.
Sometimes a CBT enterprise may chooses to rely on a strictly segmentation of clients, for example domestic or foreign tourists. A strict market segment like foreign tourist is very dangerous since market dynamics are unpredictable.
For instance, the current ban on consumptive tourism is a clear market dynamic. Suppose a CBT enterprise relied on consumptive tourism, what business would it be making now unless it shifts its market to non-consumptive business?
It is fact that challenges that can be face by various CBT enterprises cannot be uniform. A CBT in area A may face challenges that are different from that of area B.
Location of each CBT enterprise is crucial in determining what challenges the CBT entity shall face. Is there any solution to these challenges? The forthcoming article shall discuss the topic.
For feedback follow @ephraemsteve