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A Healing Coalition for Africa’s Eden

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It is known as Africa’s Eden. A sweeping, pristine paradise that contains large concentrations of critically endangered species such as rhino, lion, cheetah and wild-dog. It is home to 75% of Africa’s elephants.

It is the Kavango-Zambezi TransFrontier Conservation Area, better known as KAZA. Its footprint is enormous–larger than Germany and Austria combined–nearly twice as large as the United Kingdom. It lies in the Kavango and Zambezi river basins where Angola, Botswana, Namibia, Zambia and Zimbabwe converge.

Much of KAZA is a vast and beautiful wilderness of deserts, savannas and endless marshes. It’s a safari connoisseur’s dream destination. The centerpiece of KAZA is Victoria Falls, a UNESCO World Heritage Site and one of the seven natural wonders of the world.

It is also home to numerous indigenous villages representing a bevy of diverse cultures and traditions. Most of the people who live in KAZA are dependent on tourism for their livelihoods, sharing their heritage, arts and crafts, language, music, cuisine and general daily lives with visitors.

The area has seen hardship before–political and economic challenges, climate change, poaching, Ebola and more. But there has never been a crisis in KAZA on the level of COVID-19. In a matter of weeks, the entire tourism sector in Africa’s Eden collapsed.

The KAZA tourism community is fragmented, dispirited and economically stressed. Businesses are extremely short of liquidity, and receive little institutional support. Additionally, the loss of tourism revenue has dried up funding for many conservation and social welfare programs.

The situation is dire, but not without hope. The community is resilient. And it has its supporters.

The Victoria Falls Regional Tourism Association (TVFRTA) was established in January 2020 to promote the Kaza destination around the core product of The Victoria Falls. This Association is noteworthy as the first multi-country destination marketing campaign entirely driven by the private sector in the region.

It was only weeks after its founding that the TVFRTA realized its work would be more difficult than it had ever imagined.

Against this backdrop, members of the TVFRTA had an epiphany. They would invite a group of tourism marketing and PR organizations to form a “Healing Coalition.”

Working pro-bono, 11 firms from around the globe–firms that would normally be competing against each other–banded together to develop a digital platform to enable KAZA tourism to recover by inspiring travel, spotlight new itineraries and allow for direct bookings. The coalition also committed to strengthen the coordination of all stakeholders along the tourism value chain.

The coalition will develop a holistic destination toolbox for KAZA tourism stakeholders to use. The toolbox will include a website, social media strategy, newsletter, digital magazine, itinerary builder, direct booking platform, online travel training, social media messaging, 365-day marketing, and a virtual travel trade event.

The intent in the short term is to build platforms and engage with the trade during lockdown, then move towards active promotion of the destination once borders reopen. Ideally the efforts will also have the long term effects of moving KAZA toward a more sustainable and proactive tourism region. The digital platforms will also empower smaller companies catering for new travel trends and a different, more caring, introspective traveler.

Finally, the coalition hopes its work can provide guidelines and be used as a template for any destination in any crisis.

There’s an African proverb; If you want to go quickly, go alone. If you want to go far, go together. It is in this spirit that the TVFRTA and its Healing Coalition are hoping its digital destination efforts will help KAZA, and the world itself, to go far.

The KAZA Healing Coalition is comprised of:

3D Media – Botswana

Botswana Unplugged

Break The Ice Media – USA

Focus Online – South Africa

Green Team Global – USA

Low Season Traveller – UK

MMGY Hills Balfour – UK

Online Travel Training – UK

Target Creative – UK

Rainmaker Digital – Namibia 

Wetu – South Africa

Voices From The Field – ATTA is providing this space for the benefit of our members for building awareness within our community. The views and opinions expressed in this column are not necessarily ATTA’s, nor do we endorse them by their publication.

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