The official Zimbabwe Tourism Authority (ZTA) website yesterday still carried the picture of music superstar Akon.
There was also a story which suggested that the singer, who performed at the National Sports Stadium on Saturday, was due to visit the Victoria Falls.
In the build-up to the Akon show, the ZTA had made us to believe that Akon would be roped in as music ambassador as his performance here would help to market Zimbabwe as a tourist destination.
The ZTA had thus been basking in the glory of bringing the superstar into the country until Akon failed to travel to Victoria Falls.
He has already left the country and the talk about his role as an ambassador is already dead.
Media reports at the weekend said the ZTA was disappointed by the touring megastar’s failure to travel to Victoria Falls despite earlier agreements.
The organisers of the Akon concert have, however, said the singer was not scheduled to travel to Victoria Falls. “Neither Akon nor his management team agreed to visit Victoria Falls on a commercial flight that morning,” said his publicists.
The local organisers appeared to have their own programme of events while the ZTA had its own, which was dead in the water.
The failure by Akon to travel to Victoria Falls begs the question whether the singer even knew that he was in the country as a tourism ambassador.
He was not on national duty here, it’s now apparent. He came to perform and nothing more.
Local organisers of the event were eager to promote the event in Harare and he stayed in the capital. The whole saga puts to question the integrity of the ZTA programme to use artistes as tourism ambassadors.
In February 2008, the first time ZTA boss Karikoga Kaseke spoke of Akon coming to Zimbabwe, he was adamant about the singer’s role.
“ . . . let me make this clear once again, we are not inviting these people to promote music, as some people are saying, but for tourism purposes,” he told the media at the time said.
Today we ask what “tourism purposes” Akon fulfilled if the ZTA had no control of the singer’s itinerary. All hot air! In fact, no one — perhaps other than the honchos at ZTA — ever believed in the celebrity host programme to promote tourism and to put Zimbabwe on the map.
Kaseke told the nation in 2008 when he brought in Joe Thomas that the exercise was not a waste of money.
“We did not invite Joe Thomas only to perform but as a celebrity under the celebrity host programme, meant to select the country’s tourism ambassadors,” said Kaseke.
Media reports quoted Kaseke as saying Thomas’s first job would be in the United Kingdom where he was expected to give a positive outlook of the country.
It is now over two years since the Joe Thomas visit. We are keen to see the figures from the singer’s ambassadorial efforts.
As for the Akon visit, the jury is already in with a verdict; not successful, from a tourism marketing point of view, that is.