The Case of Kariba Dam
The tourism product life cycle is a delicate matter that needs to be handled with care since the service is intangible. According to Butler, we have several stages that should be understood so as to come up with fruitful results. Focusing on Kariba between Zimbabwe and Zambia, a lot is happening on this cycle in terms of the ups and downs that are being faced. All in all, understanding this product life cycle can help shape the tourism industry after all experience is the best teacher.
It is a physical examination which leads to discovery. To be candid, scientific explorers managed to discover a lot of interesting things, the likes of Armstrong who went to the moon therefore this is the same scenario in the tourism industry. Kariba dam has always been there but due to exploration they found out that because of its abundance in water they could develop a hydro power plant which up to now Zimbabwe is benefiting from in terms of electricity. Needless to say, the exploration stage was kick started by the building of the dam wall and it became an attraction as it is humongous. Thus, it now garners the much needed tours and sightseeing excursions when looking at the churning of the turbines, the sound of the water cascading like a waterfall not forgetting its strategic location as it borders with Zambia leading to destination awareness.
Involvement and development
After exploring an attraction and finding it worthy to tourism operations, the cycle goes on to the involvement and development stage. Apparently, as tourism operators there is need to involve the government, the locals and the private sector. The government has to give permits so as to operate legally thus Kariba is the home of a plethora of lodges that is the Tamarind lodge where we stayed on our Travel and Recreation class trip. More so, Kariba is well known for the Tiger fish tournament which never fails to get investors onboard as they bring along foreign currency. To be prosaic, this event put Zimbabwe on the map as the tournament led to participating tourist getting prizes which they treasure up to now as souvenirs. Not only has it financially benefited Zimbabwe as a whole but the locals as well since they are into tour guiding which is a vital component when talking about tourism. Also, the locals are into the making of artifacts which is a guilty pleasure of many if not most of the tourists.
Consolidation and stagnation
After all is said and done through the previous stages, the consolidation phase merges with the stagnation one causing the tourism product life cycle to finally come to a standstill. Stating the obvious, the destination would have run its course in terms of attracting tourists. Moving on with our chosen destination, Kariba is now suffering from low levels of water as the area experiences high temperatures. Henceforth, the water levels are said to be decreasing affecting a lot of water based activities like cruises, white water rafting and fishing. Kariba hosts a lot of boats that can be rated as five star if they had been hotels. Looking at the fact that water safaris was its lifeline, it is reported that Kariba is experiencing a different kind of lockdown as adventure tourists are looking at other enticing destinations for example the Mtarazi falls which is encased in the Eastern highlands tourism.
Kariba can be rejuvenated as a destination by a lot of itinerary shuffling and redesigning of the tour package that is introducing camping sites, horse riding and weekend bonfires. Ladies and gentlemen allow me to say that diversification is the best route. Rejuvenation is the process of producing beneficial changes and it is a must when it comes to the tourism product. In addition, the promotion of township tourism is vital as it delves deep into the history and culture of the locals. Indeed, increasing travel agents in every city will serve its purpose as tourism will be expedited in leaps and bounds for these business operations are mainly centralized in Harare and Bulawayo. When we come to rejuvenation, tour operators should use every weapon in their arsenal to make the destination look brand new. Undoubtedly, service marketing as part of the promotional mix will revive and enrich the tourism product positively.
The Tiger Tournament is now a thing of the past looking at Kariba and that is what the theory states pertaining the decline stage. Most of Kariba’s lodges are lying idle. In fact, some travel agents have since been booted out of business and there is lack of wildlife in Kariba save for crocodile farming. Mass tourism is the root of the decline stage as the area will need to practice sustainable tourism in terms of visitor management. Dear readers, the tourism product life cycle has its drawbacks thus gearing us for the inevitable but the decline stage gives room for improvements as it is a sort of a SWOT analysis. Cutting to the chase, the SWOT highlights the strengths and weaknesses making planning easier. The whole point of this assessment of Kariba is to civic educate tourism players on how to avoid unnecessary pitfalls in the cycle. That said, don’t give up on our most treasured destinations in the world no matter what.
As one of my favorite destinations in Zimbabwe, l felt that l should pen down something about Kariba upon hearing the incessant issue of decreasing water levels due to climate change. Particularly there is need to revive the Kariba tourism operations which, if not handled well, will go down the drain. Going through all these stages l discovered that Kariba is stuck or rather caught between the two that is the stagnation stage which in a way determines whether to simply rejuvenate our ways/ methods or play the blame game and fall into the clutches of the decline stage. Half of my Tourism and Hospitality classmates did their attachment in Kariba and most of them are now working there as of now showing its strength in terms of employment. Quite frankly, my clarion call is as Zimbabweans, we have the power to resurrect Kariba and take it to greater heights.
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Memory Phiri is a Travel and recreation consultant who has vast experience in the tourism industry. She also is a free-lance writer in addition to being a sustainable activist. You can get in touch with her on firstname.lastname@example.org.