Drone-based proposal to promote tourism in Zimbabwe

A Zimbabwean drone technology entrepreneur has proposed a drone-based solution to promote the country’s tourism.

Tatenda Mafara (far right in the main picture), the proprietor of Iron Mask Aerotech lodged his proposal with the Zimbabwe Tourism Authority in fulfilment of the latter’s Tourism Innovation Challenge, which seeks to use youthful ideas to restore the country’s tourism to its yesteryear highs.

“My project was titled Drones, Digital Twins & Virtual Reality for Zimbabwe’s Tourism and was aimed at giving an interactive virtual experience to tourist around the world through virtual reality technology,” said Tatenda, whose project was voted third best at the provincial finals held recently.

“The project blends the mapping power and capabilities of drones to generate digital replicas of our iconic tourist destinations and the trendy technology of virtual goggles that give users a close-to-real life experience of the real world but in the comfort of their own homes.

“This solution was driven by the need to counter the effects of Covid-19 induced travel restrictions that restricted tourists from travelling to Zimbabwe and hence affecting one of our country’s major foreign currency earners.”

From a high of about 2,580million visitors in 2018, World Bank statistics show that tourism plummeted into the doldrums in Zimbabwe when the pandemic happened, as only 639,000 tourists had made in into the country before everything was shut down in 2020.

It is a situation the tourism body is keen to change for the better.

“The Tourism sector has been greatly affected by the prevailing environment and as such the Zimbabwe Tourism Authority has come up with the Tourism Innovation challenge as a means of creating opportunities for young innovators to participate in the tourism value chain,” the ZTA said when introducing the competition.

“Through this initiative ZTA will also partner with other innovation hubs to incubate and mentor selected project winners. The Tourism Innovation hub is aimed at young innovators aged 30 and below. This is in line with Government’s thrust of youth empowerment and poverty alleviation in marginalised groups.”

Entering the competition from his provincial base in Harare, Tatenda’s concept mirrors the one in Italy, where tourists can relive the ruins of ancient Rome and discover how they were 2,000 years ago, with the Virtual Reality Bus, a 16-seater vehicle equipped with cutting-edge technology.

Passengers on the electric bus can view the Imperial Fora, Colosseum, Palatine Hill, Circus Maximus and Theatre of Marcellus thanks to “visor free” VR displays, with all imagery created by visual effects specialists under the guidance of archaeologists.

Tumelo Mabanga claimed the first prize. Picture: ZTA

Said Tatenda of his project proposal; “Just like the popular movie streaming platform, Netflix, users will have to pay to access the virtual reality space online or walk into any of the various embassies abroad to get access to this platform. This is how our country will tap into the new digital market to generate the much-needed revenue in such unprecedented times.

“The solution will bring new excitement to the tourism industry and will allow us to market our brand at the various events and expos across the globe in a way we have not explored before with all stakeholders welcome to advertise their brands on the platform as well.

“Drone and virtual reality technologies are no longer in the future, they are here now, and it is up to us to tap into their limitless potential. If tourists cannot travel to come and experience our beautiful nation, then why not take our country to them?”

The first prize for the Harare leg of the provincial challenge went to Tumelo Mabanga whose Find & Go platform connects customers to service providers in the hospitality industry. Tumelo will be competing in the national finals to be held next month.

Tatenda’s Iron Mask Aerotech enterprise offers solutions in in Remotely Piloted Aircraft Systems operations, which include surveying, mineral exploration and Geographical Information Systems (GIS).

Young master Mafara has twice presented a paper on drone-based solutions for the survey and mapping industry at the Zimbabwe International Drone Conference, whose second edition was held at the beginning of August.


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