Leonard Ncube in Victoria Falls
PLAYERS in the tourism industry in Victoria Falls are smiling all the way to the bank as business is reportedly picking up owing to an increase in arrivals.
Usually the first quarter is characterised by low bookings in arrivals, activities, accommodation and eateries.
Without giving figures, operators who include tour activity providers and hotels, said the first three months have been good compared to the same period over the years.
Positive growth has been attributed to vigorous marketing of the new look Victoria Falls International Airport, now literally every airliner and traveller’s target.
Arrivals into the prime holiday resort have increased steadily since the re-launch of the Kavango-Zambezi (KAZA) Uni-Visa in December last year while hotel occupancy rate is also eight percent up compared to the same period last year.
Employers Association for Tourism and Safari Operators (EATSO) president Mr Clement Mukwasi said business has been good in the last three months.
“Business has been on a surge in the first quarter and generally operators recorded an increase as tourists have been spending on our activities,” he said.
Mr Mukwasi said there has been an increase in inquiries about Zimbabwe as a destination and activities, while bookings by over-landers who in the past have preferred Botswana, Namibia and Zambia, have significantly increased as well.
“However, we are concerned that arrivals seem to be concentrated on Victoria Falls while business is low in other areas such as Kariba and Mana Pools.
This could be due to presence of a new-look airport,” said Mr Mukwasi.
He said most tourists visiting the country stay for an average three to seven days hence they fail to travel from Victoria Falls to other resorts.
“This becomes negative because the increased numbers are concentrated in one area. As operators we want to encourage stakeholders to market other destinations with the same vigor they have put for Victoria Falls while the Government should also speed up infrastructural development in those areas,” he said.
Hunting is the only sector with low bookings since the shooting of Cecil the Lion almost two years ago in Hwange.
The increase in arrivals and bookings has also seen eateries recording brisk business. Newly opened Three Monkeys Restaurant manager Miss Kimberly Dube said business has been encouraging since January.
“We opened in November last year starting with pizzas and drinks and have now expanded to a variety covering all nationalities. We have had a good start and hope to keep going as this is a good tonic for our goal to be the best restaurant in Africa,” said Miss Dube.
She said they have hosted celebrities for dinner such as South Africa based international rugby player Tendai “The Beast” Mtawarira and the Cheetahs and Blue Bulls clubs.
She said their clients also include locals as they offer competitive prices affordable across board, with international tourists flocking to have a feel of the open refreshing environment with a ‘I love Vic Falls’ touch designed to attract clients.
Some of the eateries that have been busy include The Boma-Dinner & Drum Show, Shearwater, Comfort Catering, Mama Africa and In da Belly among others.