- Hayley Idensohn
MICE. "Our unique adventure and safari destinations form an easy-to-operate triangle".
Updated: Apr 30, 2020
In association with The Victoria Falls DMC www.victoriafallsdmc.com Glen Byrom, our Meetings, Incentives, Conferences & Exhibitions go-to-man recently received an email from a discerning tour operator specialising in MICE, to which Glen responded. I thought you may find his correspondence of interest (note the writer's identity has been changed).
The email to Glen and Kumbi read something like this:
" I have just arrived in Singapore from a post Tour of Cape Town.
I shared my plans of exploring Zimbabwe as a potential product for my future customers and I heard from a few DMCS that the region is very dangerous and to avoid as much as possible, and asked me to consider Zambia instead. During Meetings Africa, I have seen presentations on both Zambia and Zimbabwe and have found that Zimbabwe is a more interesting product to offer in terms of things to do and see. I felt bummed after hearing about the dangers.
What would be your honest view of the situation?
Thank you very much!
I suppose we are well used to uninformed people having such scare-mongering views. Here are a few facts and some of my personal honest-to-goodness views:
Our unique adventure and safari destinations form an easy-to-operate triangle -Zimbabwe and Zambia across the Zambezi River bridge from each other at Victoria Falls and Chobe National Park, Botswana, just an hour away by road from both sides. Livingstone town (at Victoria Falls, Zambia) is pretty much a mirror-image of the Zimbabwe side (properties, restaurants, activities) except the view of the Falls themselves at some part some parts of the season. On any site visit we would always easily show you all three destinations. It is also very simple, and usual, to tap into the best elements of both sides during a group visit, even to cross the countries by luxury vintage steam train. I am attaching a photo as a reminder of just how almost seamlessly close the two countries are across the famous bridge that is also our proud logo. In my personal experience as founder and CEO of southern Africa’s pioneering DMC, Green Route, we created and delivered more than 700 global groups to Victoria Falls Zimbabwe, totalling more than 25,000 people, and their most powerful memory was always that they encountered the friendliest people in the world. Yes, I sold Green Route eight years ago but have continued in this niche creative business and nothing has changed. I can very honestly say that in my 30 years in this MICE business we never encountered any dangerous situation – unless it was the wild Zambezi River in full force or the animals! It is true that Zimbabwe is facing economic woes but this type of stress is confined to the big cities of Harare, Bulawayo and Gweru. Because it is a prime global tourist destination I can state with total certainty that Victoria Falls is almost blissfully on another planet! The infrastructure is modern, even a new US$150m airport, and investment in new lodges and facilities continues with positive zest that this destination deserves. I must admit to being somewhat dumbfounded that some DMCs would harbour such unjust and untrue views. I would love to hear if they are a) talking from first-hand experience and b) what danger they encountered.
Of course David there is an easy way to verify all my words. I am 100% certain that if you gathered four or five clients (or potential clients) and came on a three-night exploration trip you could demonstrate the major WOW factors and win good new business. You get the flights we’ll look after you on the ground for most elements.
As Green Route for more than 20 years we operated in Zimbabwe, Zambia, Botswana and also South Africa, especially Cape Town which is very charming but hardly authentic Africa. It is instructive that when we won Africa’s first global SITE Crystal Award it was a very big budget group of 120 from IBM USA. They spent nine nights (2 Cape Town, 2 Chobe, 3 Victoria Falls, Zambia and 2 at the luxury Sun City Resort in South Africa. I was there personally and the agent. Kim Hester, had all delegates fill in a simple form on the very last day – which were their favourite destinations? It is no surprise to us that 100% said Victoria Falls was best, then came Chobe, then Cape Town and finally Sun City.
David, it is wonderful to note your own enthusiasm and I can confidently reassure you that you will be joyfully surprised when you visit Victoria Falls. I am sure Kumbi will send you his own views as well as some links from recent stories in trusted global platforms that tell it like it is.
Let’s Keep Exploring
It may be useful to know that I pioneered incentives and meetings to Victoria Falls in 1991 by founding my former company and, indeed, won Africa’s first global SITE Crystal Award for IBM USA in 1995. Kumbi is now a committed and very active SITE member.