Zanzibar wants to renew Gulf interest

Zanzibar is witnessing a renaissance in tourism as the sector continues to attract international operators from new markets, such as the Gulf countries, in line with the national strategy to move more towards quality tourism.

Hafsa Mbamba, founder and managing director, Destination Zanzibar, tells us more. “By shifting more towards luxury tourism, the island of Zanzibar has also seen a rise in midrange 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 also newer developments/heavy investments taking place across the island, which seem to be in line with what the Government's notion of attracting more 'quality visitors' with a higher spending power.”

As of mid-last year, the private and public sectors came together to increase 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. 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, for example, in arranging press trips to Zanzibar.

The Gulf is a natural market for Zanzibar due to its historic ties, but destination promotion has only recently picked up in the Gulf region. “We certainly expect this to rise, as we understand that not many industry professionals in the Gulf are very familiar with the destination and the general public either.”

Mbamba says, “The segment may be dominated by Maldives and Seychelles, we do not intend to compare Zanzibar to these destinations as we quite different. They may all be island destinations, Zanzibar, however, offers more than sun, sand and sea with a rich history dating back to Stone Age. We are a destination suitable to those who are looking for more of a 'barefoot luxury' experience while enjoying what the island has to offer, from some of top dive spots in the world to a bustling Stone Town (capital) ideal for those who want to immerse themselves in the culture including the fusion Swahili cuisine.

“We always encourage people to spend time in Stone Town to get a better understanding of the destination before heading off the their beach accommodation, this is where the heart and soul of Zanzibar is and frankly, a great stepping stone in 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 – very hilly. It's a great escape to those who are looking to 're-connect' with mother nature and just simply switch off. There are very few properties on Pemba, which also means much fewer visitors than the main island.