Zimbabwe Tourism Branding in Perspective: Can the Undiscovered Tourism Gems Be the Panacea to Destination Competitiveness?

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ZIMBABWE TOURISM BRANDING IN PERSPECTIVE: CAN THE UNDISCOVERED TOURISM GEMS BE THE PANACEA TO DESTINATION COMPETITIVENESS?

Mirimi Kumbirai1 , Shumba Keron1 , Chiutsi Simon1 , Hurombo Brighton1 , Mangwiro Marvellous2 1 Department of Travel and Recreation Management, Chinhoyi University of Technology, Zimbabwe. 2 Department of Hospitality and Tourism, Chinhoyi University of Technology,   Zimbabwe. *Corresponding author, e-mail: kmirimi@yahoo.com or kmirimi@cut.ac.zw

Abstract
The macro-economic and political challenges experienced in Zimbabwe in the last decade have impacted negatively on the competitiveness of Zimbabwe as a tourist destination. However the new political and economic dispensation ushered through the Government of National Unity (GNU) has created stable conditions thereby bringing in a new lease of life for the Zimbabwe’s tourism sector to rebrand itself. This paper proposes that in this rebranding exercise Zimbabwe can exploit its undiscovered tourist gems to regain competitiveness. These undiscovered tourist gems include culture of the BaTonga people, the Shangaai people, and farm or agro-tourism in the Eastern Highlands, Chimanimani area and Masvingo in terms of wildlife, Domboshava and Chiredzi in the lowveld as noted from the research. A descriptive research design was used because the primary objective was to describe the effects of the dynamic interaction between tourism branding, industry environment and its characteristics on tourism performance. The paper proposes that the rebranding strategy, rather than being only an implementation strategy for image promotion, relates to a way of understanding the changing branding process within a tourist destination.

Key words: Destination, image, branding, corporate branding, undiscovered gems.

1. Introduction
Destination branding plays a significant role in positioning and marketing a destination. It is further propounded that destination branding is critical in tourism destination strategy and planning (Cooper et al, 2005). The importance of destination branding in the practice of destination management in Zimbabwe is reflected by the investments that are made both at national as well as at regional level. This is what Anholt (2007a) refers to as the creation of a competitive distinctiveness. It is believed that tourism can, and should be branded to compete with other countries, just as companies brand their products and services (Pappu and Quester, 2007; Roth and Diamantopoulos, 2009; Balakrishnan, 2008). This is because, whether or not a country consciously brands itself, it will be perceived in a certain way by tourists within and outside the country (Pike, 2005).The Ministry of Hospitality and Tourism Industry, spearheaded by the Zimbabwe Tourism Authority is pursuing an intense branding campaign with a new image launched in March 2011. This paper explores the ideals and complexities enshrined within branding a destination with reference to various schools of thought and conclude by proposing branding of “undiscovered gems” as an effective tool to brand a contemporary tourist destination. The paper concludes by making recommendations that for Zimbabwe’s tourism sector to regain competiveness there is need to reinvent its tourism resource base by tapping from off the beaten track tourism resources in the mould of the BaTonga peoples’ culture, the Shangaai people, farm or agro-tourism in the Eastern Highlands, Chimanimani area, Masvingo in terms of wildlife, Domboshava and Chiredzi in the lowveld.

2. Literature Review

2.1 Destination branding in perspective
Destination branding offers marketers the opportunity to counter one of the greatest dilemmas facing destinations-the sheer substitutability of their offerings. As Morgan et al (2002) discuss, however putting destination branding into practice is no easy task and destinations face a number of challenges which each have the potential to derail the best branding initiatives. Destination...
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