Africa: Victoria Falls tourism boom excites international markets
THE resort town of Victoria Falls is inundated with inquiries from Zimbabwe’s major tourism source markets keen on directly investing into the tourism sector, an industry official has said.
Zimbabwe’s source markets include United Kingdom, the United States of America, Australia, Germany, South Africa, among others.
Employers Association of Tourism Operators president Clement Mkwasi told NewsDay that they were inundated with inquiries from different international source markets.
“We have realised people from our source markets are now making applications to invest in the country. Quite a lot of people from UK, the United States of America, Australia among others, are making so many inquiries about directly investing into the country,” Mkwasi said.
“So I suspect that they are also marketing the destination because eventually they expect themselves to be based here. They have come here several times, they know the place, they know the potential that the destination has. They now want to invest here and before they invest, they are encouraging everyone else to come down to Zimbabwe,” he said.
Mkwasi said the industry in Victoria Falls was picking up, with most of the hotels currently fully booked.
“As things are at the moment, you might not find accommodation. Almost everyone is full this time. It’s seriously picking up. If you fail to book for Christmas now, you won’t be able to come here in December. The best thing is for people to book now to secure their accommodation,” he said.
According to the Finance ministry’s fiscal policy and advisory services department update, Victoria Falls recorded an average occupancy of 44% in March 2018 up from 37% in January 2018 and the highest in the last five years.
The growth was attributed to international arrivals, with 75% of the occupancies in the resort town being foreign tourists, who are largely business and leisure tourists.
Mkwasi said international source markets had regained confidence in Zimbabwe following the dethronement of former President Robert Mugabe last November by his ex-right handman, Emmerson Mnangagwa.
“Zimbabwe has been on the map for a long time, but this time around that Operation Restore Legacy which took place in November, it actually sold Zimbabwe more,” he said.
“And then the elections that came through without violence, they also contributed in a very big way to Zimbabwe’s name being actually promoted out there. In previous years, we knew that whenever there were elections, they would be travel warnings and travel bans,” he said.
But, contrary to Mkwasi’s claims that the elections were non-violent, just recently after the July 30 harmonised elections, the army was deployed to quell an MDC Alliance protest over Zimbabwe Electoral Commission’s delay in announcing presidential poll results.
During the process, the army fired live ammunition, resulting in seven people losing their lives and many injured.
“So the fact that Zimbabwe has had talks about rejoining the Commonwealth, the fact that Zimbabwe has had peaceful elections, the fact that there is now a new government which excludes Robert Mugabe, is giving the international community confidence and also that has led to our usual source market like the United Kingdom not issuing travel warnings and bans,” Mkwasi said.
“Of course, we know Zidera (Zimbabwe Democracy and Economic Recovery), but they have not said any negative statement that actually sways tourists from coming to Zimbabwe. So that alone has led to an influx of tourists coming in.”
Mkwasi said the figures they were having in Victoria Falls were comparable to the 1999 figures.
Zimbabwe recorded 597 010 overseas arrivals in 1999.
“When you talk of the general number of people who are employed in the industry currently, whether they are on contract or whatever base, versus the people who were employed in 1999, that gives you an indication of how busy the destination is,” he said.
“When you look at the number of people who pass through the airport, when you look at the occupancies in general, it will actually tell you that we not going back, but moving forward.”