Tourism is one of the key activities lined up during the Month of September, a month dubbed Tourism Month, where the ministry is showcasing the critical role tourism can play in the socio-economic development of the country.

This programme has afforded soccer youngsters a special opportunity to meet with the prominent soccer legends of our time and also to have an appreciation of some of the tourist attractions within the Harare Metropolitan Province.

Amid all this, the Deputy Minister of Environment, Climate, Tourism and Hospitality Industry Hon Barbara Rwodzi yesterday indicated that Sports Tourism is a key ingredient for sustainable development.

Hon Rwodzi led a tour of the Mbuya Nehanda Statue, the Museums and Monuments, the National Heroes Acre, and the National Sports Stadium in the company of soccer players from the Dickson Choto, Mpao ( led by Ephraim Mazarura), Gnimbi (led by Mike Temwanjira), and Costa Nhamoinesu Sports Academies.

In order to create an interface between soccer and tourism, there will be a curtain raiser of matches among soccer legends and tourism players at the giant national Sports Stadium on 24 September 2022.

“I have instructed my team to take this programme to other Provinces in the future so that we afford similar privileges to youths across the country. Ladies and Gentlemen, World Tourism Day is celebrated globally, every year on the 27th of September. A day was set aside by the United Nations World Tourism Organisation (UNWTO) to foster awareness amongst the international community on the importance of tourism economically, socially, culturally, and environmentally. This year’s celebrations will be running under the theme “Rethinking Tourism”, challenging the Tourism players to embrace innovative ways of resuscitating and growing the Tourism Sector, post-Covid 19 Pandemic, paying more attention to sustainability, inclusivity, and resilience.

“Sports Tourism is a phenomenon that emerged during the 21st century. It is relatively new and has an impact on the socio-economic development of the country. The idea of creating a platform between young soccer players and the legends is to bring our value-earned talents and skills into the new blood in a way to nurture the youngsters in the field of soccer. As a nation, we cannot afford to lose the talents and experience of our living legends who once raised the Zimbabwean flag high and dedicated most of their time to serving the people of Zimbabwe at national, regional, and international levels,” Hon Rwodzi said.

The tourism Ministry, together with the Ministry of Youth, Sport, Arts, and Recreation joined together to promote Tourism through Sports Tourism.

As a precursor to the soccer match to be held on the 24th of September 2022, there was a tour today for youngsters and the Zimbabwean Soccer Legends to have a feel and appreciation of the local tourism sites.

The tour package comprised of visits to heritage sites, namely; the Mbuya Nehanda Statue, Museum of Human Science, and National Heroes Acre. It ended at the National Sports Stadium, where living Soccer Legends shared their testimonials with the soccer youngsters.

This also presented an opportunity for the young soccer players to have an appreciation of the synergies between sport and tourism for the benefit of rebranding the country, as they are future ambassadors.

Sebastian Garikayi, Acting Director of the Sports and Recreation Commission said sports tourism as a new concept coming on to the table has seen various teams in a number of sporting disciplines coming to Zimbabwe.

“Sports is a business in itself. We need to promote local tourism through sport. We are doing well in that regard since 84 teams of sports have so far come to Zimbabwe. I encourage sports associations to bid to host regional competitions in Zimbabwe. We have had regional tournaments in hockey, and karate performing in Zimbabwe and that has the potential to showcase our country to the outside world,” Garikayi said.

Godfrey Koti, the Head of Corporate Affairs of the Zimbabwe Tourism Authority (ZTA) said synergies between the national tourism marketing entity and sports organisations had led to a couple of cricket teams visiting Zimbabwe courtesy of the ZTA partnership with Zimbabwe Cricket and the SRC in the immediate past.

There are calls from stakeholders to improve sporting infrastructure to match international standards. To put the scenario in perspective, Barcelona took more than 120 team members to Kenya where they stayed for more than 2 weeks in that country – a situation that demonstrates how sports can have low-hanging fruits in the tourism sector. Similarly, Manchester United also toured South Africa.

The SRC is coming up with some sporting facilities databases throughout the country, starting from cell right up to the national level.

There will be a soccer match for young soccer players under the age of 18 years on 24 September 2022 and also a match between the Zimbabwean Soccer Legends and Team Tourism at Rufaro Stadium.

Zimbabwe’s prominent soccer commentator, Charles Mabika will be there and a lot of entertainment is lined up for the day. Soccer enthusiasts are encouraged to all come in numbers and have fun, as the country celebrates the Tourism Month of September.