Zanz­ibar,par­adise ar­chi­pel­ago plans a brighter fu­ture

par­adise ar­chi­pel­ago plans a brighter fu­ture

Middle East Business (English) - - CONTENTS -

Zanz­ibar's ar­chi­pel­ago sits around 50km off the coast of main­land Tan­za­nia. An is­land state, it sits within the United Re­pub­lic of Tan­za­nia, and has its own semi-au­ton­o­mous gov­ern­ment made up of a Rev­o­lu­tion­ary Coun­cil and House of Rep­re­sen­ta­tives. Best known for its spices, coral reefs and its dream­like beaches, Zanz­ibar comes from the words used by early Arab traders to de­scribe the whole East African coast: zinj el barr, or "land of the blacks". The in­ter­ac­tion of the Arabs and the Bantu- speak­ing Africans gave rise to the Swahili civil­i­sa­tion, with Is­lam at its core and Kiswahili as its tongue. Zanz­ibar stopped be­ing the name for the whole coast only in the late 15th cen­tury. Since then, it has been (po­lit­i­cally, at least) the name for two large is­lands off the coast of Tan­za­nia – Un­guja (the lo­cal name for Zanz­ibar Is­land) and Pemba, its less-pop­u­lated sib­ling to the north­east, plus a num­ber of smaller is­lands. Mariners be­gan ply­ing the mon­soon­wind route down from the Per­sian Gulf as long ago as 150AD. The Per­sians ar­rived in the 10th cen­tury, and the Por­tuguese in the early 16th cen­tury, with the Bri­tish hot on their heels, but it was the Omani Arabs who ex­erted the most in­flu­ence in Zanz­ibar – at first they let the indige­nous line of Mwinyi Mkuu (or "great kings") run lo­cal af­fairs while they set up trad­ing posts, clove plan­ta­tions and, in 1811, a slave mar­ket. Stone Town's coral stone maze of al­leys and houses mostly date from the height of Zanz­ibar's com­mer­cial power as a cen­tre for spice and slave trad­ing in the 19th cen­tury. In 1840, the Oma­nis moved in - lock, stock and bar­rel; such was the im­por­tance of the slave and spice trades that Sul­tan Seyyid Said trans­ferred his cap­i­tal 3,000 miles away from Mus­cat to Zanz­ibar Town, on a western penin­sula of Un­guja. Is­lam is the dom­i­nant re­li­gion, and prac­ticed by most Zanz­ibaris, al­though there are also fol­low­ers of Chris­tian­ity and Hin­duism. Pop­u­la­tion is es­ti­mated by the UN to be 1.3 mil­lion. Zanz­ibaris speak Kiswahili, a lan­guage which is spo­ken ex­ten­sively in East Africa. Many be­lieve that the purest form is spo­ken in Zanz­ibar as it is the birth­place of the lan­guage. Fish­ing and agri­cul­ture are the main eco­nomic ac­tiv­i­ties of the lo­cal peo­ple. Zanz­ibar was once the world’s largest pro­ducer of cloves. Al­though cloves are still a ma­jor ex­port along­side co­conut prod­ucts and spices, tourism has been ear­marked as the pri­mary for­eign ex­change earner, with more vis­i­tors com­ing to Zanz­ibar each year.

To give a feel for mod­ern day Zanz­ibar, we spoke with Hafsa Mbamba, Founder and Man­ag­ing Di­rec­tor of 'Des­ti­na­tion Zanz­ibar' who gives us an in­sight into how they are try­ing to at­tract peo­ple from our re­gion to this beau­ti­ful ar­chi­pel­ago. Zanz­ibar is wit­ness­ing a re­nais­sance in tourism as the sec­tor con­tin­ues to at­tract in­ter­na­tional op­er­a­tors from new mar­kets. How do you see this evo­lu­tion im­pact the hos­pi­tal­ity in­dus­try as a whole con­sid­er­ing the size of the is­land? Zanz­ibar is at­tract­ing more of the 'emerg­ing mar­kets' such at the Gulf re­gion, which is part and par­cel of the na­tional mar­ket­ing strat­egy. I be­lieve the im­pact has been pos­i­tive so far as it has played a role in at­tract­ing in­ter­na­tional ho­tel brands such as the Doubletree by Hil­ton and Park Hy­att and I be­lieve this will con­tinue. By shift­ing more to­wards lux­ury tourism, the is­land has also seen a rise in mid-range prop­er­ties, with some be­ing for­mer bud­get prop­er­ties to ac­com­mo­date the changes in the mar­ket, which I be­lieve has cre­ated bet­ter qual­ity 'prod­ucts' for Zanz­ibar - cater­ing for a wider range of vis­i­tors as well. Gen­er­ally, by at­tract­ing in­ter­na­tional op­er­a­tors in­clud­ing air­lines such as Qatar Airways - it forces the lo­cal stake­hold­ers to im­prove prod­ucts/ ser­vices that would even­tu­ally be ben­e­fi­cial for them. There are their forces in des­ti­na­tion mar­ket­ing. With newer mar­kets on the plan, it is cru­cial to en­sure that both sec­tors are on the same page and utilise their re­sources ef­fec­tively. In say­ing that, a Joint Mar­ket­ing Com­mit­tee was cre­ated to fa­cil­i­tate des­ti­na­tion mar­ket­ing ac­tiv­i­ties, which in­volves par­tic­i­pa­tion at in­ter­na­tional travel ex­hi­bi­tions such as the Ara­bian Travel Mar­ket in Dubai. Stake­hold­ers, such as our­selves, also play an im­por­tant role in join­ing both the pub­lic and pri­vate sec­tor in des­ti­na­tion mar­ket­ing as we work with both sec­tors.

Hos­pi­tal­ity and travel sec­tors re­quire uni­fied ef­forts to achieve des­ti­na­tion brand­ing and pro­mo­tion; how does the in­dus­try col­lab­o­rate to achieve this ob­jec­tive? The in­dus­try cur­rently col­lab­o­rates in limited ar­eas to achieve des­ti­na­tion brand­ing and pro­mo­tion. How­ever, the Gov­ern­ment of Zanz­ibar plans to in­tro­duce a Mar­ket­ing and Pro­mo­tion Bureau, which will be over­seen by a pub­lic pri­vate board, and part of the bureau's re­spon­si­bil­ity would be to roll out the des­ti­na­tion brand­ing strat­egy.

The Gulf is a nat­u­ral mar­ket for Zanz­ibar due to its his­toric ties, how­ever des­ti­na­tion pro­mo­tion is only now be­ing in­tro­duced to the re­gion. What are your ex­pec­ta­tion from this mar­ket and how do you plan to achieve this given the seg­ment is dom­i­nated by des­ti­na­tions like Mal­dives and Sey­chelles etc? It's true that des­ti­na­tion pro­mo­tion has re­cently picked up in the Gulf re­gion con­sid­er­ing the his­toric and trade ties be­tween the two re­gions. We cer­tainly ex­pect this to rise, as we un­der­stand that not many in­dus­try pro­fes­sion­als in the Gulf for ex­am­ple are very fa­mil­iar with the des­ti­na­tion, nor the gen­eral pub­lic. Al­though, the seg­ment may be dom­i­nated by Mal­dives and Sey­chelles, we do not in­tend to com­pare Zanz­ibar to these

des­ti­na­tions as we are quite dif­fer­ent. They may all be is­land des­ti­na­tions; how­ever, Zanz­ibar of­fers more than sun, sand and sea with a rich his­tory dat­ing back to the Stone Age. We are a des­ti­na­tion suit­able to those who are look­ing for more of a 'bare­foot lux­ury' ex­pe­ri­ence whilst en­joy­ing what the is­land has to of­fer, from some of the world's top dive spots to its bustling cap­i­tal, Stone Town, an ideal des­ti­na­tion for those who want to im­merse them­selves in the cul­ture, in­clud­ing Swahili-fu­sion cui­sine. We al­ways en­cour­age peo­ple

to spend time in Stone Town to get a bet­ter un­der­stand­ing of the des­ti­na­tion be­fore head­ing off to the their beach ac­com­mo­da­tion. This is where the heart and soul of Zanz­ibar is and frankly, a great step­ping-stone to ex­plor­ing the is­land (Un­guja). Pemba, the sis­ter is­land on the other hand is our best kept se­cret - also known as the Green Is­land, it has some of the most lush and fer­tile lands - and is very hilly. It's a great es­cape to those who are look­ing to 're-con­nect' with Mother Na­ture and just sim­ply switch off.

Hafsa Mbamba of Des­ti­na­tion Zanz­ibar

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