The Sunday Mail
THE area around the National Sports Stadium is turning into one of the most interesting rendezvous of culture, lifestyle and sport.
The creation of the Museum of African Liberation complex on Bulawayo Road and the impending housing, leisure and golfing complex at the Warren Hills Golf Club, on Kirkman Road, will bring an interesting dimension to this part of Harare.
Zimbabwe has one of the most desirable natural climates in the world and hosts an abundance of beautiful sites at which people spend lots of time and money enjoying themselves.
I believe an opportunity exists to bring these abundant natural gifts together with our sport to create an attractive venue for regional, continental and global sporting activities.
Golfers have mastered the art of mixing whatever business they are doing with a few rounds of their favourite sport.
They do not have a problem travelling long distances, even across borders, to enjoy their sport while sampling local cuisine and culture, among other things.
Cricket is another sport that has aggressively pushed to host events. On a regular basis, Zimbabwe plays host to qualifier events for major cricket tournaments.
Triathlon, angling and show jumping, among other sports, have hosted qualifiers and regional events.
Badminton and tennis have done the same.
It shows that Zimbabwe has the capacity to host major events.
The 1995 African Games (formerly All-Africa Games) will attest to this.
The country committed itself to putting up infrastructure and delivered Olympic-level swimming facilities, world-class hockey infrastructure and created space for over 20 sporting disciplines.
Football hosted the CAF African Schools Football Championship COSAFA Qualifiers in December last year.
This needs to be actively promoted.
Zimbabwe also hosted the COSAFA Women’s tournament in 2002, 2011 and 2017.
On the other hand, the men hosted the CECAFA tournament in 1985.
They, however, lost the opportunity to host the AFCON tournament in 2000 when the rights were withdrawn a year before the event.
Ghana and Nigeria were then awarded the rights to co-host the event.
The point I am making is that there is massive potential to build the required sporting facilities to match our natural resources.
The UN World Tourism Organisation, whose General Assembly was co-hosted by Zimbabwe in 2013, defines sports tourism as “a type of tourism activity which refers to the travel experience of the tourist who either observes as a spectator or actively participates in a sporting event generally involving commercial and non-commercial activities of a competitive nature”.
It is estimated to generate about 10 percent of the world’s expenditure on tourism.
Overall, it can promote social, economic and environmental action, as well as accelerate development.
In essence, sports and tourism are interrelated and complementary.
So, sporting events of various kinds and sizes attract tourists as participants or spectators, while destinations try to distinguish themselves by providing authentic local experiences.
As a nation, our value proposition are the tourism facilities and places to visit and see.
We just need to do the sporting part.
We can also tap into the vast resources available from the UN, which has carried out studies, including some with the International Olympic Committee, on how sports and tourism can work together for the attainment of Sustainable Development Goals.
For example, Yellowbrick.com, a travel site, describes Barcelona in Spain as “one of the top destinations for sports and tourism”.
The city is known for its vibrant culture, stunning architecture and, of course, its love for football.
It is considered a dream city for sports enthusiasts.
It is also home to FC Barcelona — one of the most successful football clubs in the world — and their stadium, Camp Nou, is a must-visit for any football fan.
In addition, Barcelona also hosts the Formula 1 Spanish Grand Prix and is a popular destination for tennis, basketball and handball events.
Such cities are trading on their cultures and natural resources and, of course, well-developed sporting infrastructure and history.
Zimbabwe, too, can become a prime sports tourism destination.
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