New Zimbabwe.com

Tourism and police road blocks: Karikoga is alone and offside

THERE are times when it is better to remain silent than saying something that is completely bongus. For a man whose job is to market Zimbabwe’s tourism offering, Karikoga Kaseke was way ‘offside’ when he tried to justify the numerous roadblocks in Zimbabwe in the name of ‘safety and security’. He is letting down the tourism industry that relies on him by not telling his bosses (whoever they might be) that ‘traffic police are soiling the Zimbabwean tourist experience’.
Karikoga Kaseke is quoted claiming that tourists must not fear police roadblocks because roadblocks give the feel of ‘safety and security’.  Kaseke is wrong! The truth is that tourists, tour operators and citizens despise roadblocks. Placing police everywhere gives the impression of a paranoid, unsafe and insecure country.
Roadblocks add to journey times and costs and the police bribery experience is very unnerving. There is no one in their right minds that can enjoy the bribery and quasi-state fundraising activities of the traffic police?
As head of the Zimbabwe Tourism Authority (ZTA), Kaseke should be doing his job of enhancing tourists’ experience by telling the government to remove roadblocks, not justifying them.
According to publicised research, international travellers who visit Zimbabwe cite numerous police as the one experience that sours their otherwise great Zimbabwean experience. Tour operators who pay Kaseke’s salary completely disagree with the ZTA chief. His utterances contradict the views of his direct boss, the Minister of Tourism Walter Mzembi.
Given the unanimous view of the inconvenience of police roadblocks, one wonders where Kaseke got his facts from and indeed to whom they were intended. He gave the impression that his job is a spokesperson of the state security sector rather than head of the tourism promotion quango.
Zimbabwe would be the first country where someone can enjoy being accused of fictitious vehicle crimes and harassed for bribes. So many police on the road is interpreted as an indication that there is something wrong security-wise (a form of state of emergency), not a reassuring thing as Kaseke thinks.
Kaseke’s statement is regrettable because of his role in tourism. In Zimbabwe’s tourism industry, the marketing strategies are undertaken at different levels;Advertisement

Each company markets itself to attract customers to its offering.
Operators based in an area must collectively market the destination/area that they are based. As an example, tour operators based in Mana Pools must market Mana Pools as a destination. Tour operators tend to form associations to market the destination.
Efforts must be made to market the country. The aim of this marketing effort is to attract visitors to a country.

In Zimbabwe, tour operators have responsibility for 1 and 2 above and they are doing a fantastic job of it. ZTA that Kaseke are responsible for marketing the country (3) above. ZTA is funded through the ZTA Levy which is a 2% that is levied on tour operators’ income to go towards paying the costs of ZTA operations. Karikoga Kaseke is the head of ZTA; he has been the head of ZTA since most people can remember and he is doing an awful job.
On the positive side, Zimbabwe has some of the highest standards in hospitality, an exceptionally well-trained staff and destinations to match. It is one of very few countries that offer a very diverse tourist experience but that is as good as it gets. The country has very bad Public Relations (PR) though.
The country’s image has become synonymous with that of its long-serving president and ZTA (through Kaseke) is failing to disentangle the country’s rich hospitality offering from its stale political image. It should be Kaseke’s job to convince the world of the greatness of the Zimbabwean experience and put pressure on the government to make that experience great.
Kaseke let himself down by coming across as someone who is compromised and no longer understands whom he is there to serve. ZTA needs a strong, committed chief who has the confidence to remove bottlenecks rather than a weak one who tries to justify them. Kaseke needs to prove that he is that chief otherwise questions about his role will not go away.
Davis Mutori is a UK based Zimbabwean with experience in the tourism sector. He writes in his own capacity. He can be contacted on mutorid@gmail.com