|From left to right, Givemore Chidzidzi, chief operating officer for the Zimbabwe Tourism Authority, and author Joe Pike|
DURBAN, South Africa --As part of our ongoing coverage of the 2014 INDABA tradeshow, Travel Agent sat down with Givemore Chidzidzi, chief operating officer for the Zimbabwe Tourism Authority, and learned that the destination is looking to increase its volunteer tourism products with hopes of increasing the number of American arrivals.
The U.S. market makes up less than five percent of the destination's total arrivals but Chidzidzi says he would like to see the U.S. among Zimbabwe's top three markets in the next five years. Americans currently making the journey to Zimbabwe come from New York, Washington, Atlanta and Chicago, he says.
He says the destination recently hosted a couple from the U.S. who was in their '70's but has mainly seen an influx of young American college students and recent college graduates who want to take part in volunteer tourism.
"We have seen that there is a growing interest in this type of travel so we are in discussions to create more products for this marketing segment," says Chidzidzi. "We highly value volunteer tourism because we consider it an investment in the future of Zimbabwe."
The destination has always struggled in the U.S. market, says Chidzidzi, mainly because of the false notion that the destination is unsafe.
"We need to get better at communicating with the U.S. market and we need to let them know there is a lot of misinformation out there," he says.
One of the main attractions to the destination is wildlife. You can see the "big five," a phrase commonly designated for elephants, lions, buffalo, rhinoceros and leopards, but it also home to other wildlife such as hippopotamus, crocodiles, giraffes and just "about any animal one would expect to see in Africa," says Chidzidzi.
The other main attraction is the gorgeous Victoria Falls, which is often considered one of the top three waterfalls in the world, along with Niagara Falls and Iguazu Falls.
As far as hotel product goes, Rainbow Tourism Group represents about seven hotels in the destination while Cresta Hotels has about five properties and African Sun has about 13, including a Holiday Inn Express.