Cash transcations hit tourism

Source: Cash transcations hit tourism – Sunday News Jun 19, 2016

Roberta Katunga, Senior Business Reporter
THE lack of Point of Sale (POS) facilities in Zimbabwe is limiting tourists’ expenditure and has become the biggest challenge in marketing the country, international buyers have said.

Speaking on the sidelines of the 9th edition of Sanganai/Hlanganani world tourism expo in Bulawayo, international buyers said tourists preferred the use of plastic money as opposed to carrying around cash as that was risky.

Zambia-based Sigo Adventures and Tours director Mr Walter Syakalonga said traditionally tourists spend about $100 a day on activities and other business but do not want to carry hard cash and prefer use of plastic money.

“We have faced challenges with accessing cash from ATMs and POS facilities in Zimbabwe. This then means visitors cannot spend and therefore are forced to limit their activities,” said Mr Syakalonga.

He said there were attractions like national parks that require cash for entry into facilities as well as most food outlets in the country. Mr Syakalonga urged the country to adopt the use of plastic money so as to be more marketable to tourists internationally. He said the trends of clientele were changing with most of them wanting to spend time in four to five countries and not just one country.

“Gone are the days of competing with each other, we have to complement each other’s efforts and the Kaza univisa system has made it easier for tourists to move around. Bulawayo is particularly rich in Zimbabwe history and the houseboats in Kariba are a new draw card for tourists,” he said.

Mr Syakalonga urged the country to improve on accessibility, especially air travel.

“Going by road is a long trip, people don’t want to spend time travelling but doing activities,” he said.

Uganda-based Kibira Safaris Tours and Travel’s Ms Dorothy Okoboi said the POS facility issue was a challenge which was, however, not difficult to overcome although most of their clients prefer plastic money.

She said Zimbabwe’s biggest challenge was lack of information to potential source markets especially within Africa which they are neglecting.

“Zimbabwe is not considering us as their primary market yet we can make this country very famous in the region. They need to work on restoring faith within Africans as this is a ready market for the country. If tourists are warned prior to travelling that Zimbabwe is a cash economy, it will give them ample time to prepare and carry cash,” said Ms Okoboi.

Ms Okoboi who is a first time buyer in Zimbabwe said she was impressed with the quality of service and described all service providers as having well above average general knowledge of their services.

“The roads here are some of the best in Africa and I noticed that the drivers are cautious and follow traffic rules. The hotels are more than enough, beautifully maintained and professionally run. I was pleasantly surprised as this visit exceeded my expectations,” she said.

Germany-based African Dreamtravel’s Mr Harald Braun who focuses on marketing Namibia, Botswana and Zimbabwe as a package said explaining the money situation to clients was not easy. Mr Braun said as African countries are being sold as one destination, it was important for them to have similar pricing and standards.

“Plastic money usage is global and people do not want to move around with cash as it is risky. Compared to other countries in the region, Zimbabwe is overpriced as a destination and this needs to be dealt with,” he said.

He said the police situation was also affecting tourists on self driving trips with most of their clients resorting to shuttle use due to the numerous roadblocks.

“If these problems are solved, Zimbabwe is the destination for the future,” said Mr Braun.

South Africa’s Fusion Travel and Tours Director Mr Thabiso Magodielo concurred with other buyers’ on the PoS facilities.

Mr Magodielo said, “Plastic is king, it’s safer. It is not a good idea to be carrying cash around, tourists do nightlife and go to places they are not familiar with, so the issue of paying for services and products in cash becomes a challenge’’.

Sanganai/Hlanganani was held in Bulawayo at the ZITF from 16 to 18 June with a focus on cultural tourism.