Tourism, Sport must combine… Or Die in the Covid-19 Aftermath

Sport Zimbabwe

Mugove Chigada

DURING the height of the coronavirus outbreak, sport and tourism were among the biggest casualties as governments closed borders, restricted movement, and stopped large gatherings to try and contain the further spread of the virus.

For more than 24 months the world became accustomed to living under lockdown with the limited choice of activities creating new cultures and trends.

Now that the pandemic appears to be nearing its tail-end with the world slowly opening up, recovery of sport and tourism is going to require a new approach because an end to curfews and restrictions will not immediately translate to a sudden boom.

It is genesis again.

For organisers of one of the biggest events on the country’s sports and tourism calendar, Bonaqua Africa Triathlon Cup, the vision of sport and tourism in one basket is paying off.

By its very nature, the event draws large crowds from within the borders and abroad to the scenic town of Nyanga in the Eastern Highlands.

The fact that about ten athletes that lined up at the Tokyo Olympics in 2021 for Triathlon started their journey in Nyanga, goes to show how immense the event has been.

“We are proud to continue sponsoring Triathlon as it plays a significant role in promoting sports tourism,” Coca-cola Frontline Marketing manager in Zimbabwe, Faith Nehanda, said at the launch of
the event set for April.

The global brand is the title sponsor of the event through their Bonaqua bottled water brand while CIMAS, Toyota Zimbabwe, African Sun Hotels and Ecocash are some of the key partners.

In many ways, the event’s ability to bring many partners into one basket could be an indication of the appeal of sports when combined with tourism.

Globally the sports tourism industry is estimated to be valued at US$7.6 billion.

“We are hoping that more corporates will be coming to Nyanga to participate,” said CIMAS fitness trainer Isabelle Mlotshwa, highlighting what has become a growing sideshow of the Bonaqua Africa
Triathlon Cup.

It is also a perfect example of how both parties can leverage synergies to minimise costs at the same
time giving consumers a unique package and experience the best of both worlds.

“The challenge is when players in the tourism sector look at the sports teams, they see direct money, and when sports teams look at hotels, for example, they also see money in the form of sponsorship,” said Zimbabwe Tourism Authority (ZTA) spokesperson Godfrey Koti.

“There comes a time when both must come together in partnerships that are mutually beneficial and have a massive multiplier impact on the communities.”

Realising the potential of marrying sports with tourism the ZTA has partnered with Zimbabwe Cricket in a unique sponsorship deal.

“They play their part in marketing the destination, and we have to meet our part,” said spokesperson Koti.

“In these conditions, it is imperative to know where to reduce costs, where to seek partnerships and how to execute ideas,” he said.

The 2021 Afcon finals, where 24 national teams thronged Cameroon under a cloud of uncertainty, perhaps gives an idea of how massive sport can boost tourism and re-shape culture in the pandemic
aftermath.

The West African country’s US$4 billion-dollar investment in infrastructure was not in vain given the accruing downstream impact that included job creation.

The project brought with it the construction of roads and stadiums. Hotels and other service providers also benefitted as occupancy rates increased. Future generations will continue to benefit.

Ecotourism Africa and Sports Tourism, PR and Marketing director Malvin Kanjere believes it’s never too late to start.

Kanjere and his team have organised a sports event in the resort town of Kariba from March 25 to 27, with participation not only restricted to athletes.

“Events are open to all. It is a full package,” he says.

Both the Triathlon in Nyanga and the varied sports events in Kariba show the consumer has the choice of tourism experience, watching professional athletes or being an active participant.

“The first time I attended this Triathlon, I was amazed by how they transformed the resort area,” African Sun Sales Manager Thamary Reppoh says.

A Harare man Godfrey Mamike says he likes the idea of sport in resort areas.

“It makes a lot of sense because it’s a full package. Vising Kariba or Nyanga has always been in my plans, and now I will also enjoy sport over the weekend and even take part,” he says.

The Covid-19 situation created a huge awareness of health and wellness. And many ensured they kept their bodies active to increase their chances of overcoming the pandemic.

As such, that has become a part of the culture you will not do away with.

The Zimbabwe PSL has learned the hard way, with many football fans opting for social leagues on weekends rather than watch domestic action.

Some social teams even organize games at holiday resorts for a real experience.

In a big step that improved how Sports Tourism can be viewed, United Nations World Tourism Organisation and the International Olympic Committee (IOC) jointly organized the first world conference on sport and tourism in Barcelona on 22-23 February 2001.

And 20-years later, Africa still lags behind in many aspects.

Tourism and sport are natural partners and it is incumbent on industry players to build partnerships for the benefit of not just the athletes and corporates but also the ordinary person willing to visit the outdoors and partake in sport.