Zanzibar,paradise archipelago plans a brighter future
paradise archipelago plans a brighter future
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