By Daniel Chigundu
ZIMBABWE Tourism Authority (ZTA) chief executive Dr Karikoga Kaseke has revealed that his organisation is currently negotiating with Manchester United Football Club for a possible shirt deal.
The revelation comes barely a month after Rwanda tourism board entered into the same deal (Visit Rwanda) with Arsenal Football Club worth US$30 million.
Rwanda is expected to benefit immensely from the deal owing to the huge following that Arsenal enjoys across the world.
In an interview, Dr Kaseke said the deal that was eventually offered to Rwanda had first been offered to Zimbabwe but could not materialise owing to financial capacity to raise US$30million.
“The person who is behind the Visit Rwanda-Arsenal deal is a Zimbabwean, he approached us and that is a three-year program, it’s a three-year rolling program, its US$10 million per annum and for the three years its US$30 million, so you know this is a huge amount of money which you don’t want to just jump into a decision of that nature.
“But we have got others like Manchester United who I think could be equal to Arsenal and if not equal they could be a better brand, their price I cannot tell you but it’s far, far much cheaper and we are talking to them and we hope we will do the same thing that Arsenal is doing and we hope we will be able to do because that idea came to us and we took our time to implement it, that is why Arsenal went to Rwanda.
Dr Kaseke added that Zimbabwe could not implement the deal because Arsenal wanted a deal which is not less than three years and at US$10million per year.
“…they (Arsenal) did not want anything less than three years and anything less than US$30 million so it’s a US$30 million deal which is a quite a high amount yes but the benefits from tourism definitely are far, far more than US$30million.
“But when we do such a deal and we sign a US$30million deal with Arsenal we know you people from the media what you will say, but some of the things that you say make sense as well because Zimbabwe cannot get into those type of things at the moment when it’s trying to rebuild its economy,” Dr Kaseke said.
The ZTA boss said while tourism is a thermometer that can be used to measure the temperature of a nation but at the moment there would be other priorities that would need taken care of to help rebuild the economy.
Dr Kaseke added that while more money needs to be poured into the tourism sector “but that money must be put into good use, but to put US$30 million on such an activity we have to go on top of the hill to justify that to the Zimbabweans because Zimbabweans are not like Rwandans.
“Rwandans have seen the benefits that tourism has brought to them Zimbabweans have not seen, maybe it’s our fault, we have done a lot of things in our tourism but we have not educated the nation on the benefits of tourism, we need to first of all really forget about marketing, marketing, we must also do marketing and education,” he said.
During the 2017 edition of Sanganai/Hlanganani World Travel Expo, Finance Minister Patrick Chinamasa promised to adequately fund tourism marketing activities but according to Dr Kaseke, nothing much has been coming so far expect promises and explanations.
“He did not foresee the challenges that were ahead of him and he is trying but he said we will meet after elections and we will map up a proper program with him for next year.
“So I think I want to believe he is a man of his word and I think he will keep his word but we have not really gotten the funds as promised but explanations have been given to us,” he said.
Although tourism has been identified as one of the low hanging fruits for Zimbabwe, there has not been deliberate attempts by the government to ensure the country takes advantage.
Dr Kaseke has appealed for adequate financing on several occasions and various times the authority has had to almost cancel its activities such Harare International Carnival and Sanganai/Hlanganani owing to lack of funds and non-payment of service providers of past editions.
Zimbabwe seriously needs to market its tourist destinations to such countries as China and India where a projected huge number of world outbound tourists are going to come from.
According to a Parliamentary report last year, Zimbabwe is relatively unknown in China and yet the Asian country is a huge player in outbound tourists.