The Covid-19 epoch has crippled the tourism industry since it has restricted the movement of people from one place to the other. This is because all this movement can trigger the spread of the pandemic. That said, although some businesses are still up and running other tour operators have long since closed shop. It is sad to say the tourism industry as a whole is bearing the full brunt of the deadly respiratory virus. However, hoping against hope we have come to the realization that technology is our consolation. Tour operators have switched to the internet and media so as to keep their businesses afloat. Allow me to share my take with you on this changing narrative.
Nowadays there is no need to make reservations for activities, accommodation and transport. In fact, all that hassle that comes with choosing a tour package that suits your disposable income has been eradicated for good. One only has to get connected to the internet and he or she will go to their desired destination from the comfort of their homes. Thus, tour operators should just create their virtual tours and sell them online so as to keep the businesses alive. Recently, Zimbabwe Tourism Authority (ZTA) did so as a way to bring to the tourists’ attention that Zimbabwe as a destination is a force to be reckoned with, for we have so much to offer “only for their eyes.” Virtual tourism has always been there whereby tourists would see a bit of the destination as an orientation before actually freely visiting the place. Currently, it is now essential as we are practicing social distancing, curfews and endless lockdowns. In a manner of speaking, it is a sort of therapy as one gets so engrossed in a tour, therefore, getting a lot of information about the destination. For example, taking a virtual tour of Hwange will promote township tourism which is on the rise due to the Covid-19 pandemic. Indeed, Hwange is an interesting town as it is the hub of our reputable National Park so it is wise to create a virtual tour of both the park and the town as the locals are very much involved in the tourism and wildlife conservation. Without a doubt, tourists would love to know how the National park has managed to upgrade the standards of living for the town.
A destination has to be marketed in the sense that tourists will be able to know about it for example the Eiffel Tower, the Great Wall of China and Mount Everest. I have never been to these destinations but l can tell you about them because tour operators with the use of technology made them household names. This pandemic has turned us into tech savvy experts so let us use this initiative to our advantage so that when this era is over everyone will know every nook and cranny of the tourism destinations in our respective countries. Apparently, destination awareness can be promoted online through the use of a website where you will make all the information about a particular destination available as you will be portraying every advantage of the attraction over others. In particular, you will be mainly concentrating on the 6As itinerary of tourism that is Activities, Amenities, Ambience, Accessibility, Ancillary services and the Attraction itself. Rest assured that when these lockdowns are lifted for good tourists will come in hordes. For that reason, this is the time to put your house in order and upgrade these hotels to five star status. Looking at the star ratings in our hotels in Zimbabwe it is wise to write down all those renovations and target a niche market that you will be able to satisfy without doubt as the Covid-19 era has given us ample time to right our wrongs.
This area of tourism is a personal favorite of mine because l am a cyber-activist in sustainable tourism. We need to join our hands together when it comes to tourism and conservation because it brings about a lot of foreign currency generation and employment creation. Technology in the form of social media platforms such as Facebook can reach a lot of people in a matter of minutes as people are always actively online due to retrenchments. Given such a scenario, tour operators must write everything down and post videos in a bid to go the extra mile of reaching a wider clientele base. In addition, post about biodiversity on your pages that is anything and everything to do with anti-poaching strategies, climate change and its effects on tourism, promoting natural tours, educating the tourists on waste management plus the beauty of green tourism. Trust me, the page will get a lot of views and likes because conservation is a very topical issue that should be addressed timeously. Having said that, tour operators should not lose hope for this is the time to pull up their socks. If life gives you lemons make lemonade, soldier on because this is just a phase so prepare for the aftermath where business will be back to normal as we will have face to face interactions from the front office bookings up to the time you check out after a great experience.
Japan is one country that managed to prove to the world that the Covid-19 pandemic is not going to affect our livelihood. Also, Japan is rich when it comes to technology. Subsequently, the Olympics were held in Japan and we virtually enjoyed every moment. Sports tourism was portrayed through the documentaries that were aired during breaks. As an avid viewer l can tell you all about making green tea, the preparation of sushi and how to wear the traditional kimono adroitly. Accordingly, l saw this from the documentaries which were tailor made to reach out to everyone watching the Olympics as the virus did barricade us from going to Tokyo physically. Japan as a country saw it fit to air these cultural documentaries and lure tourists using technology and the media. In this case, they used the television and up to now, word of mouth will promote the destination because l recall everything and l am proud to relate it in this article. Tour operators should adopt such documentaries in this trying period that is capturing what is most captivating and unique about your destination then airing it on national TV. Indeed, this way it will reach a wider fan base. In Zimbabwe, l would urge the special cooking of fish in Binga to be documented and sold as a package because there are different ways to cook fish but this one is informatively and proudly Zimbabwean.
Looking at the fact that tourism is vital to a country’s economy, l am taking the time to explain how crippling the battle with Covid-19 has been when it comes to the aviation industry. Airports were closed so it literally meant the shutdown of tourism as tourists come from abroad mostly. I feel that tourism operators should be given some leeway to go on with their business as the industry is very strict in terms of health matters. Travelling is the order of the day for tourists so it is wise to practice the Covid-19 measures. If this is done so, business will continue to boom for most operators were about to call it quits. Tunisia is one good example of a country that kept running its tourism operations since the advent of the pandemic. Tourism has never slackened in Tunisia as they are practicing all the strict measures like sanitizing, social distancing, masking up and allowing fully vaccinated tourists to enjoy their destination. Undoubtedly, tourism is a cash cow and lifeline for many nations’ economic growth so let us practice stringent measures that are for our own good in paving way for our businesses to flourish.
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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 email@example.com.