An assessment of brand Zimbabwe's competitiveness and attractiveness as a tourism destination
The global tourism market is characterised by growing competition. Tourism destinations are competing for tourism arrivals and investments. Therefore, creating competitive and attractive destinations has been paramount in recent years. Destinations have responded to the growing competition and decline in tourist arrivals by means of increasing branding and marketing expenditure. The economic woes of Zimbabwe started in 2000 when the government embarked on a land reform programme. Land reform attracted a lot of resistance from the international community, with a number of Zimbabwe's source markets warning their citizens not to visit Zimbabwe because it was not a safe destination. Thus, the tourism sector witnessed dwindling tourist arrivals and the market share for Zimbabwe was lost to competitors such as South Africa, Botswana and Namibia. Contested elections of 2002 and 2008 as well as untamed hyper-inflation further worsened the situation. These challenges eroded the equity of the country's brand tag: Africa's Paradise. As a result, efforts were made to rebrand the country into Zimbabwe: A World of Wonders. Zimbabwe has been involved in destination branding since the country gained independence from Britain in 1980. Destination branding, competitiveness and attractiveness have been researched in a number of tourism contexts. However, studies that either or jointly links destination branding with destination competitiveness and attractiveness are limited and more specifically so in a Zimbabwean tourism context. Additionally, studies that assess the concept of competitiveness and attractiveness using demand and supply perspectives are also lacking in a tourism context. As a result, the following research question was therefore formulated: What are the factors influencing competitiveness and attractiveness of brand Zimbabwe as a tourism destination? Between the attractiveness factors, what are the significant contributors of destination brand loyalty? Between the competitiveness factors, what are the significant contributors of prosperity of destination residents and investments? The primary goal of the study was to develop a competitiveness and attractiveness assessment framework for brand Zimbabwe as a tourism destination. In pursuance of this goal, the study formulated four key objectives. The first objective of the study was to evaluate destination branding as a strategy for building competitive and attractive destination brands. This objective was achieved by means of reviewing literature. The definition of a brand and destination brands were analysed and discussed. Further analysis was done on destination branding as a concept. The implications of destination branding elements were discussed. It was established that, research that links destination branding with competitiveness and attractiveness is limited. The complexity of destination branding was also established. The second objective of the study was concerned with the analysis and examination of competitiveness and attractiveness from a destination perspective. This objective was achieved by means of analysing literature on destination competitiveness and attractiveness. The analysis focused on the measurement of these aspects. Appropriate academic foundations about the definitions, origins and classification of models were also discussed and analysed. It was established that, competitiveness and attractiveness are complex aspects of destination research. Research that addresses these concepts using demand and supply perspectives is lacking. Inconsistence was also established with regard to the measuring dimensions of both aspects. The concern of the third objective was to assess brand Zimbabwe as a tourism destination with respect to its competitiveness and attractiveness. The aim was to identify the significant factors that influence the competitiveness and attractiveness of Zimbabwe as a tourism destination. In pursuit of this objective, data were collected using demand and supply perspectives. Therefore, two surveys were done by means of self-administered questionnaires. Demand questionnaires were distributed to international tourists visiting Victoria Falls, Harare Great Zimbabwe and Eastern Highlands. Five hundred questionnaires were distributed. 450 demand questionnaires were captured for analysis. Supply questionnaires were distributed in the same tourism attractions as was in the demand survey. 320 questionnaires were distributed. Three-hundred and one were returned and captured for analysis. In achieving the third objective, the study applied statistical analyses such as exploratory factor analyses, independent t-tests, one-way analysis of variance, Spearman's rank order correlations and multiple stepwise regression analyses. Exploratory factor analyses were performed on items that were used to measure attractiveness and competitiveness of Zimbabwe as a tourism destination. From the demand results, 12 factors were revealed while 14 destination competitiveness factors were identified. The rank order correlations were used to determine the relationship between destination attractiveness factors using demand results. The same logic was applied for the supply results with regards to the Spearman's rank order correlations. The study used independent t-tests to determine the influence of gender on the destination attractiveness factors. One way analysis of variance were applied between groups in both demand and supply results as a way of determining the impact of selected variables on destination attractiveness factors (demand results) and destination competitiveness factors (supply results). Both destination attractiveness and destination competitiveness factors were used in stepwise regression analyses to determine significant predictors of destination brand loyalty (demand results) and predictors of destination prosperity (supply results). The results of the study showed the most important destination attractiveness factors for Zimbabwe include destination ambiance, destination attractions and tourism amenities. Zimbabwe's attractiveness was found to be affected by the price factor and external access. The most important competitiveness factors of Zimbabwe were identified in this study as satisfaction recommendations, destination quality and cultural attractiveness. As with the demand results, the competitiveness of Zimbabwe is greatly affected by its pricing model. Significant predictors for brand loyalty in the empirical context were found to be destination environment, destination brand identity, and destination brand image and destination ambience. The predictors of destination prosperity and investment competitiveness in the empirical context of Zimbabwe were found to be satisfaction recommendations, destination branding outputs, satisfying brand experiences, cultural attractiveness, brand strategy effectiveness, price, politics and policies. Results of this study confirmed that destination attractiveness and competitiveness factors are multi-faceted. The competitiveness and attractiveness framework was therefore modelled based on key results and literature. The last objective of the study was concerned with drawing conclusions and making recommendations. This study makes three contributions. The first contribution is done from a theoretical perspective. This study is one of the first to examine the link between destination brand and destination competitiveness and attractiveness, even more so in the context of Zimbabwe. Additionally, another theoretical contribution lies in the fact that, it is one of the fewer studies that addresses both concepts in a single survey. The development of the competitiveness and attractiveness assessment framework is therefore a significant contribution to literature and can further be tested in future studies. The second contribution of the study lies in its methodological approach. The key variables of the study were measured from a demand and supply perspectives, as most of the studies have only measured the variables either from a demand or supply side. Reliable and valid instruments for measuring competitiveness and attractiveness in a developmental context was developed and added to the scholarly content of this field of study. The practical contribution of the study was done by means of developing a context-specific competitiveness and attractiveness assessment framework. The framework can be used by destination managers to attract and maintain tourists that are loyal and at the same time increase the prosperity of destination residents. It can also be used by practitioners in Zimbabwe to improve the status of this country as a tourism destination.
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