Victoria Falls in Zimbabwe remains one of the most attractive African destinations for tourists from all over the globe because of the area’s unique nature, landscapes and potential extreme activities. The purpose of this report is to analyse Victoria Falls from the Zimbabwean side in the context of a “spotlight on sporting activities” and to discuss a new segment of the market that can be attracted by this destination while also supplying a list of recommendations to apply.
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This locality has the potential to be developed as an attractive hub for sporting activities because of the range of services provided for extreme sports and adventure tourism in the area.
A new segment selected for targeting includes travellers from Japan, China and South Korea (representative of Far Eastern countries). A focus on these tourists would be advantageous for marketing this location because travellers from these countries are interested in visiting destinations that present opportunities for sports activities. Practical implications for marketers who wish to promote Victoria Falls are associated with the necessity of improving the volume capacity for certain sporting activities, the quality of equipment, facilities for accommodation and other related services.
Travellers typically choose certain destinations depending on their personal goals and expectations. Some tourists concentrate on the availability of leisure activities or pay much attention to the climate and infrastructure, and other travellers are interested in new sensations; the latter may choose their preferred destinations in the interest of the availability of sports activities (Cook, Hsu & Taylor 2017). This report is aimed at providing a description of Victoria Falls in Zimbabwe as the destination selected for analysis in terms of a marketing strategy, exploring a new segment of potential travellers and providing recommendations for the marketers at this destination to improve their practice.
Victoria Falls in Zimbabwe
Introducing the Destination
Victoria Falls in Zimbabwe has been selected for this report as a destination to discuss from the perspective of targeting and advertising for the wider public. This area is characteristic of exceptional picturesque landscapes and wildlife (Africa Albida Tourism 2018). According to Cook, Hsu and Taylor (2017), six categories may be used in determining a type of destination: a) far from the crowd; b) linked to the past; c) related to seasonal delights; d) appropriate for sporting activities; e) year-round playgrounds and f) related to city sights. Victoria Falls is traditionally viewed in the context of seasonal delights because this destination is affected by seasonal factors and weather changes, and the area’s level of commercial development is comparably high.
However, for the purpose of this marketing-focused report, the destination shall be regarded in the context of another category: “spotlight on sporting activities” (Cook, Hsu & Taylor 2017, p. 244). The level of commercial development of this area in Zimbabwe has increased over the course of recent years, and more sporting activities are being made available for travellers today, demonstrating the potential for developing this segment of the market (Africa Albida Tourism 2018).
As a result, consumers’ motivation to visit Africa has changed, related to these alterations in the characterisation of popular tourist destinations (Dwyer et al. 2012; Stone 2016). Thus, while the development of Victoria Falls depends on specific seasonal weather patterns, an increasing amount of attention is being paid to adding more recreational activities to the list of services available for tourists.
The Current Marketing Approach
Zimbabwe’s Victoria Falls is located in the south-central part of the African continent, a large territory surrounded by mostly undiscovered areas of wildlife. The natural resources found in these lands are unique, and thus, this destination is regarded as one of the seven natural wonders of the world. Tourists are highly attracted to Victoria Falls itself, and the area has also been declared a World Heritage site (Africa Albida Tourism 2018; World Heritage Centre 2015).
Such aspects contribute to developing a marketing strategy for this destination based on creating an exceptional image and branding (Dolnicar, Lazarevski & Yanamandram 2013). The core of the destination’s branding and imagery strategy is therefore to focus on its identification as a natural wonder characterised by unique beauty.
Tourists are motivated to visit this site through the promotion of Victoria Falls’ location, wildlife, rainforests and brand awareness of the World Heritage label. In addition, these aspects contribute to developing the destination’s competitiveness in terms of significant pull factors to attract more visitors because of the climate, landscapes, activities and safety (Dube & Nhamo 2018; Kovačević et al. 2018; Prayag 2010). It is also important to note that Zimbabwean authorities have been inclined to combine their efforts with those of the authorities in Zambia to promote the destination more widely.
Although the current marketing approach for raising interest in Victoria Falls is based on the vision that this destination is related to seasonal delights, the initial steps have been completed towards making the site more appropriate for sporting activities having the possibility to attract more tourists. As a result, additional aspects of the marketing strategy for this destination can be viewed as important pull factors: a developed infrastructure, accommodation and support facilities, a developed hospitality industry, increased accessibility by automobiles, air and railway transport, safety of activities and availability of sports activities (Prayag 2010; Tichaawa & Mhlanga 2015).
Thus, Victoria Falls International Airport in Zimbabwe, which opened in 2016, has an annual capacity of 1.5 million passengers. The construction of this airport increased the number of visitors to the area by about 200,000 people per year, causing the number of tourists to rise by 11% in 2017 (Africa Albida Tourism 2018). This change in accessibility has led to associated changes in the hospitality industry, such as opening more rooms for tourists and improving the marketing strategy in terms of advertising Victoria Falls for a wider public from a global perspective because of the availability of new air routes.
Recently, the marketing strategy associated with promoting Victoria Falls has turned its focus to adding more sports activities as an approach to increase consumers’ motivation to visit the area as an additional means of attracting them to the destination. Popular sports activities promoted at Victoria Falls include rafting, canoeing, bungee jumping, boarding, surfing, flights, skydiving and abseiling, among others (Africa Albida Tourism 2018).
These activities have been added to the branding strategy and image of Zimbabwe’s Victoria Falls to accentuate the suitability of this unique natural destination for extreme sports (Africa Albida Tourism 2018; Tichaawa & Mhlanga 2015).
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Young people from all over the globe are interested in these sports. This segmentation allows for attracting not only such categories of tourists as young couples, families and groups of friends but also individuals interested in particular sports (Stone 2016). From this perspective, tourism at Victoria Falls is based on aspects such as exclusiveness of experience, access to a unique natural site and the availability of general and extreme sports activities, all of which have the potential to influence visitors’ motivation.
Visitors from the Far East as a New Segment
A New Segment Opportunity
A new segment that should be targeted by the marketers who are developing Victoria Falls includes tourists from the Far East with a specific focus on youthful visitors from China, Japan and South Korea. Chinese travellers in particular are interested in adventure tourism, and they often choose destinations with opportunities for bungee jumping, skiing, diving and other sports activities (Peltier 2015).
These tourists pay much attention to sites where they can participate in a variety of adventure or “adrenaline-related” activities, identifying these aspects as their key motivators for travelling abroad (Bao, Jin & Weaver 2018). However, as part of the process of selecting destinations for their sporting activities, Chinese travellers pay much attention to safety, and this factor influences their choice of location to visit.
In recent years, Chinese tourists have focused on visiting African countries, including Ethiopia, Kenya, Tanzania, Morocco and Tunisia, because of the natural destinations to be found there. It is important to take all these aspects into account while discussing the benefits of sports-oriented tourism at Victoria Falls (Kovačević et al. 2018; Yinglun 2018). The attractions that Victoria Falls offers to Chinese travellers include bungee jumping, jet boating, rafting, canoeing, skydiving and abseiling, among others.
Additionally, tourists are guaranteed safety and a developed infrastructure at this location (China Outbound Tourism Research Institute 2018; Hsu, Lin & Lee 2017). These factors are key motivators for Chinese tourists to choose a certain destination, and they contribute to attracting more travellers to this particular area.
Japanese tourists are mainly interested in travelling in Asian and European countries as well as the United States of America. While the African continent is not discussed as a primary choice for Japanese travellers, the sporting activities now available in the vicinity of Victoria Falls can be viewed as attractive to this group of tourists (What countries are the Japanese’ favorite travel destinations? 2015).
Japanese visitors tend to be oriented towards seeking out unique experiences not only associated with active sports, hiking or walking but also with staying in safe, comfortable hotels (Kamata & Misui 2015; Nishio et al. 2016). The area of Victoria Falls offers interest to Japanese travellers in terms of bike tours, canopy tours and microlight flights, among other sports activities, and more attention should be paid to improving the infrastructure and services for Japanese visitors to increase their numbers at this location.
Travellers from South Korea represent a new tourist segment for the marketers at Victoria Falls to target because the percentage of these visitors is relatively low. South Korean tourists are usually interested in visiting national and amusement parks, participating in extreme sports activities and other types of outdoor activities (Korea – travel and tourism 2018). They often choose to travel independently and with families (Park 2016; Seo, Park & Boo 2016).
From this perspective, Victoria Falls can potentially attract these visitors with a focus on providing opportunities for organising family and individual tours, flights and skydiving, among other activities. The key benefit the area offers is its developed infrastructure and the availability of comfortable, price-competitive rooms and houses for individual visitors and families.
Challenges for the Destination
Despite wide opportunities for Victoria Falls to attract visitors from countries in Eastern Asia, especially Japan, China and South Korea, challenges and weaknesses must also be considered in marketing this destination, especially in terms of its competitiveness in relation to Victoria Falls from the Zambian side, for example. One problem is the choice by Zimbabwean authorities to invest fewer resources in developing the destination, which can lead to its degradation (Africa Albida Tourism 2018).
Moreover, some of the available accommodations are not appropriate for large groups of tourists or a heavy flow of travellers during certain periods. Furthermore, it is necessary to improve the quality of provided sports equipment for tours, boating, diving and other activities to guarantee tourist safety (Kovačević et al. 2018; Stone 2016). Perhaps more important is the fact that the current volume capacity related to such promoted sports activity as helicopter flights, canoeing and a gorge swing is not enough to attract large groups of travellers.
Uncoordinated marketing efforts between Zimbabwe and Zambia in terms of the development of sports activities at Victoria Falls along with a lack of direct access to the destination from Asian countries, aspects that work as push factors, have been a deterrent to developing tourism in this region. To increase travellers’ motivation to visit the Zimbabwean side of Victoria Falls, it is thus important to advance services associated with both sporting activities and tourists’ leisure time (Africa Albida Tourism 2018; World Heritage Centre 2015). Therefore, such weak aspects as a lack of access to the Internet, a dearth of multi-lingual tour guides, and an absence of Japanese- and Chinese-speaking instructors should also be addressed.
A Practical Framework and Implications
Although the number of Japanese tourists who visited Zimbabwe’s Victoria Falls totalled 31,742 in 2017, the number of visitors from China was significantly lower (5,359 individuals), and the number of tourists from South Korea was not reported (Figures 1-2; Africa Albida Tourism 2018).
These statistics serve to indicate the popularity of Victoria Falls among tourists from the Far Eastern region. However, the figures should not be considered in isolation but should be compared to the trends for visiting Zambia and Victoria Falls from the Zambian side. In 2017, 7,944 tourists from Japan and 26,562 tourists from China visited Zambia (Africa Albida Tourism 2018).
These figures can be used to explain the necessity of attracting more visitors from China to see Victoria Falls from the Zimbabwean side with reference to the potential for attracting about 20,000 Chinese people who could choose to go to Zambia instead of Zimbabwe. Moreover, it is also necessary to make Zimbabwe’s Victoria Falls attractive to South Korean tourists and develop this specific segment.
From this perspective, destination marketers ought to set certain goals with the aim of attracting more tourists from Asian countries. The first goal is to retain and even increase the number of tourists from Japan with a focus on sports activities. The second priority is increase the number of Chinese tourists visiting Victoria Falls in Zimbabwe over the numbers in Zambia with reference to accentuating their interest in proposed sporting activities.
The next goal is to make the destination attractive to visitors from South Korea. A list of recommendations and practical implications should be formulated based on the evidence provided in the literature on the topic to improve the marketing approach that is currently followed by the authorities and marketers responsible for developing Victoria Falls in Zimbabwe as a destination.
To maintain the number of tourists from Japan who annually visit Zimbabwe and Victoria Falls, it is necessary to provide additional information on available sports activities and infrastructure. Japanese tourists are usually interested in participating in such types of sporting activities as bike and canopy tours and microlight flights (Kamata & Misui 2015; Nishio et al. 2016). Therefore, destination marketers should take steps to target this specific audience.
First, it is necessary to invest in supporting the destination to avoid its degradation. Furthermore, accommodation facilities should be improved according to the needs of the target population, and access to the Internet and other technologies should be guaranteed. Additionally, multi-lingual tour guides should be provided for tourists from Japan. Sports activities aimed at promoting interest on the part of this group should include biking, diving and hiking and should include the availability of Japanese-speaking instructors (Africa Albida Tourism 2018). Moreover, safe, high-quality equipment should be provided to address Japanese tourists’ expectations regarding safety, comfort and the quality of any services.
To make Zimbabwe’s Victoria Falls more attractive to tourists from China, it is necessary to ensure that the volume capacity of such activities as bungee jumping, jet boating, rafting, canoeing, skydiving, and abseiling is sufficiently high. Visitors from China are interested in extreme sports, but only a limited number of companies in Zimbabwe can provide such services to tourists, and as a result, tourists seeking these activities tend to choose Zambia (Africa Albida Tourism 2018; Bao, Jin & Weaver 2018).
To address this negative tendency, the volume capacity related to jet boating, helicopter flights, canoeing and a gorge swing should be increased, and these positive changes should be advertised online and on Chinese television.
Additionally, it is necessary to make sure that Chinese airlines make regular flights to Zimbabwe. Moreover, family sports activities represent a potential for developing the discussed destination, and additional resources should be spent on organising tours for family recreation with a focus on the Chinese public as well as offering efficient options for accommodation (Hsu, Lin & Lee 2017). Advertisements that target Chinese tourists should be oriented towards demonstrating opportunities for family sports activities at a comparably low price.
The South Korean segment of visitors has not been addressed by the marketers of Victoria Falls in Zimbabwe. Therefore, the first step in promoting the destination should be based on developing an active advertising campaign.
Potential tourists from South Korea have limited knowledge regarding available sites and sporting activities at Victoria Falls, and advertisements should accentuate the destination as a wildlife resource where a visitor can be as close as possible to nature as well as having the opportunity for a unique experience when rafting, canoeing, bungee jumping, surfing, skydiving, and abseiling (Africa Albida Tourism 2018). Advertisements should target social media as well as such traditional media as the press and television.
It is important to guarantee that South Korean airlines have routes to Zimbabwe or Zambia as well as to other African countries. Additionally, visitors from South Korea should be attracted by information regarding camps and other accommodation facilities that accommodate participating in extreme sports while on tours of different duration (Park 2016; Seo, Park & Boo 2016). Another important step would be to organise press tours to South Korea to promote Zimbabwe’s Victoria Falls to this newly targeted segment. For this public, it is also possible to develop a specific logo associated with Victoria Falls in Zimbabwe to influence their destination and brand awareness and increase loyalty.
The branding and marketing of such a destination as the Zimbabwean side of Victoria Falls can be based on the application of different strategies, depending on the primary purpose of the marketers involved. While discussing Victoria Falls as a perfect place for sports activities, including rafting, canoeing, bungee jumping, surfing, skydiving and abseiling, it is necessary to focus on approaches to promoting this destination among a new category of visitors.
For the purpose of this report, tourists from Japan, China and South Korea were selected as the target audience. To attract more tourists from these countries who are interested in participating in sports activities, it is necessary to improve advertisements, select new advertising channels and enhance the communication of this destination’s benefits as a natural wonder. It is also important to improve the availability of accommodation facilities and equipment and increase the number of companies providing services related to organising extreme sporting activities in the region.
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