Thupeyo Muleya, Beitbridge Bureau
TOURISTS who participated in the just ended annual tri-national wildrun expedition in the Greater Mapungubwe Trans-Frontier Conservation Area (GMTFCA) have called on governments of Botswana, South Africa and Zimbabwe to urgently consider creating a formal tourism border linking the three countries so as to unlock more tourism development opportunities
The Greater Mapungubwe TFCA is made up of national parks from the three countries — Botswana, South Africa and Zimbabwe. Wildrun director, Mr Owen Middleton, said the GMTFCA had vast opportunities for tourism but said lack of a formal tourism border was affecting the introduction of more products.
“We held a very successful event this year between 9 and 13 May in the GNTFCA with a group of 51 tourists from 13 countries including those from European Union and Australia among others,” he said.
“Though we continue to record great success annually, it is important that we have a formal tourism border among the three countries with a single entry and exit point.
“According to the feedback we are getting from most participants, there is a strong need to create formal cross point for movement throughout the year traffic here.”
In 2007 Zimbabwe and South Africa identified a site to create a tourism border at Shashe but civil works are yet to begin due to red tape between the two countries. The mega-park is located some 120km west of Beitbridge town, where two major tourists draw cards, the Wildrun and the Tour de Tuli, are held annually. Tour de Tuli attracts 500 visitors, while Wildrun attracts 80 tourists from across the globe and the events are usually held three months apart.
Under the Tour de Tuli concept cyclists ride through animal tracks site seeing the components of the park and those participating ran following wild animal tracks. Often tourists use informal tourism borders to traverse part of the three countries within a week.
Mr Middleton said as wild runners they were looking at prospects of introducing more products like walking trails, hiking and motor biking. He said the setting up of a border could create more income for the three countries, especially the Zimbabwean component. Mr Middleton said the Peace Parks Foundation had also expressed interest in upgrading the Maramani Camp in Beitbridge, which is issued by the visitors during all the two events. A South African journalist, Ingrid Wood, who also participated in the Wildrun said: “It is very important for authorities from the three countries to create a conducive environment to have people traversing the triangle throughout the year.
“There has to be life in this area outside the Wildrun and Tour de Tuli. In addition the area has been getting much recognition as a destination of choice in Sadc.”
She, however, said accessibility was a major challenge for most potential tourists.
Mr Frits Scholte from Netherlands said Zimbabwe had the best environment and wildlife conservation methods, cultural and historical sites, which could be fully exploited with the improvement of accessibility issues to its component of the GMTFCA.