BY SIMBARASHE RUSSELL SIYAKURIMA
To argue the contribution of art in travel and tourism, one has to understand the two factors in question. Art and Tourism. In very simplistic terminology, Travel and Tourism has to do with the sightseeing, exporting the scenic national natural beauty, promoting international understanding through popular cultural exchange programs, etc. The main idea is to have more foreigners coming to Zimbabwe.
Now in the very same context, Art is by form a means of expression of ideas, thoughts, culture, society and a certain message through producing a product with a predetermined aesthetic focus. To unbundle this, Art is by function the window to Travel and Tourism. Art is the voice that speaks the Tourist language. The symbiotic relationship between the two major factors has thus stirred the crucial question, is Art in Zimbabwe undermined?
Looking back at the Zimbabwean tourism sector, in 2000 the Zimbabwean tourism industry took a battering at the height of the government’s chaotic land reform which consequently resulted in its GDP contribution shrinking to only 2%. 2008 exacerbated the situation following the terrible political situation that ravaged the nation.
Positive fluctuations were experienced in 2010 as a direct result of the FIFA World Cup hosted in South Africa. Fast forward to 2016, Travel and Tourism records an 8.1% GDP contribution though it was in fluctuation. Meanwhile, during these national fluctuations according to the WTTC World Report in March 2017, the world has been experiencing a continuous growth in Tourism’s contribution to the Global GDP. So how has the world been able to continually grow while Zimbabwe experienced these fluctuations?
Unlike Zimbabwe, the world has been able to identify the direct factors that promote tourism extensively and exhaustively utilise them while trying to suppress the external factors that negatively affect it (socio-political and economic crises). Here the main focus is on the strength. Due to this the rest of the world has been able to grow. For instance, Dubai is well renowned for its impeccable tourism industry. It is an International Convergence Centre. The Arabs have been able to utilise Art forms to attract tourists in the desert nation. Through different Art forms, Dubai has been able to build aesthetic state of art infrastructure. Through art, the world has been able to be represented in Dubai by simply importing and adopting global art forms in its society. Art is thus the major tool promoting tourism. The dusty nation is proudly rated the seventh most visited place in the world.
Now let us look at the exquisite floral and botanical Zimbabwe adjacent to the dry dusty desertish Dubai. Assuming that it was just a coincidence, (which it wasn’t) that the director of the National Arts Council of Zimbabwe, Elvis Mari called for healthy collaborations with the Tourism and Hospitality ministry, the ZTA has not been acknowledging most private and virtual art companies and institutions despite their tremendous cash flows in a negatively volatile economy with no functional national currency. The value resolution motion pertaining to the contribution of Art in Travel and Tourism should read: “Art in Zimbabwe (and its respective organisations and companies) should receive adequate attention, recognition and support for substantial economic growth.”
Our Founding Director Mr Terrence Musiyiwa highlighted to Mr Elvis Mari that there is need for a paradigm shift in the way virtual entities are viewed in Zimbabwe. Virtual companies are a bridge between Zimbabwe and the rest of the world. Unfortunately however authorities such as the Zimbabwe Tourism Authority (ZTA) do not accept registration of virtual companies hence hindering them from benefiting from such initiatives as the RBZ $15 million Tourism industry support facility.
As opposed to the 2000 scenario, 2018 has opened promisingly after 2017 last quarter closed with a fundamental transitional phase that is bound to serve the Zimbabwean Travel and Tourism industry immensely. The Zimbabwean tourism exhibition in Germany is evidence. “Equally” we also have the Ministry of Sports, Arts and Recreation opening the year with vast research and initiative proposals within the Arts sector. The alarming call for cooperation of interrelated industries by Director Elvas Mari is evidence.