Zanzibar tourism attracting more emerging markets including the Gulf region


Hafsa Mbamba | Founder & Managing Director

Destination Zanzibar

  1. Zanzibar is witnessing a renaissance in tourism as the sector continues to attract international operators from new markets. How do you see this evolution impact the hospitality industry as a whole considering the size of the island?

Zanzibar is witnessing a renaissance in tourism attracting more of the ’emerging markets’ such at the Gulf region, which is part and parcel of the national marketing strategy. I believe the impact has been positive so far as it has played a role in attracting international hotel brands such as the Doubletree by Hilton and Park Hyatt and I believe this will continue. By shifting more towards luxury tourism, the island 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.

  1. The need of the hour for tourism sector is to develop an integrated marketing drive, what facilities are made available for stakeholders in order to participate in the destination marketing?

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 utilize their resources effectively. In saying that, 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 in for example in arranging press trips to Zanzibar – there we rely heavily on the support from both sides.

  1. Hospitality and travel sectors require unified efforts to achieve destination branding and promotion; how does the industry collaborate to achieve this objective?

The industry currently collaborates in limited areas to achieve destination branding and promotion. However, the Government of Zanzibar plans to introduce a Marketing and Promotion Bureau, which will be overseen by a public private board, and part of the bureau’s responsibility would be to roll out the destination branding strategy.

  1. The Gulf is a natural market for Zanzibar due to its historic ties, however destination promotion is only now being introduced to the region. What are your expectation from this market and how do you plan to achieve this given the segment is dominated by destinations like Maldives and Seychelles etc?

It’s true that destination promotion has recently picked up in the Gulf region considering the historic and trade ties between the two regions. We certainly expect this to rise, as we understand that not many industry professionals in the Gulf for example are very familiar with the destination and the general public either.

Although, 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 whilst 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 (commonly known as Zanzibar).