Berlin lessons for Harare tourism


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By Problem Masau (currently in Berlin)

Berlin is a fascinating city, rich in history and culture. It has a population just over 2 million people while receiving droves of tourists every day. Sightseeing buses roaming the streets with people taking photos all day long are a common sight as much as it is also common to see backpackers clutching on to their maps as they satiate their quest to explore the city.

Every step or two, one usually bumps into a tour guide explaining one or two things to a group of students who have visited Berlin. Everything here is a tourist attraction. Food, museums, architecture and culture draw people from across the globe.

Asians are increasing liking the destination as witnessed by a growing number of them. According to Christian Tanzler, the spokesperson of Berlin Tourismus and Kongress, a company that promote tourism in Berlin about 11 million guests visit the Germany capital every year.

“It did not happen overnight. In 1990, after the reunification of Berlin, we only had 3 million guests. We had an average of 30 000 beds taken every night but now we have 140 000 per night,” he said.

Tanzler said Berlin is a tourist hotspot because of its history. “The city was divided for 28 years and when the wall collapsed, there was a surge in tourism arrivals. So special history plays a pivotal part in the number of tourists,” he added.

Harare is home to more than 1, 5 million people. It is Zimbabwe’s capital city. Just like Berlin, it has a rich history.

Many people have forgotten that Harare then Salisbury was the capital city of Federation of Rhodesia and Nyasaland.

The federation consisted of Zambia, Malawi and Zimbabwe. Why not use this trump card to woo people from Zambia and Malawi to visit their once revered capital city.

According to Tanzler, most of Berlin’s international tourists come from Great Britain and other European countries. United States of America also have a significant figure in the number of arrivals. This is because Americans have got a spending power more than anyone else in the world.

However, most of Berlin’s tourists are Germans consisting about 53% of the total arrivals. This means domestic tourism is very vibrant in Germany.

There are many people in other parts of Zimbabwe who have never set any foot in Harare. There are also families in other cities like Gweru, Bulawayo and Mutare among others who can spend holidays in Harare as tourists if proper mechanisms are put in place.

Berlin takes advantage of its lakes, rivers, gardens and parks to woo people. Harare have got these facilities in abundance but sadly most of them are being run down because of lack of people to adequately look after them.

So many times, we have seen Chinese taking pictures in Africa Unity Square. Sadly, everything is not regulated and City of Harare, Zimbabwe Tourism Authority and other stakeholders loose valuable money in the process.

The Berlin Tourismus and Kongress, the sole company that is in charge of tourism in Berlin is a public- private partnership. It is a consortium of hotel operators, transport operators, travel agencies, the government and the City of Berlin.

In Harare, there is no such company. The company promote Berlin in other countries.

“We have 43 offices worldwide, we stage festivals and music concert to promote Berlin. We also have partnerships in other cities,” said Tanzler