Melissa Mpofu in Victoria Falls
The resort town of Victoria Falls is a hive of activity as it is hosting two mega events, the Jameson Vic Falls Carnival and the Fallin’16 festival.
The events which began on Thursday with parties in town have attracted a host of tourists from different countries, giving the town so much life.
Most hotels and tour operators are smiling all the way to the bank as they are fully booked. The town’s residents have not been left out as most locals who could not afford the hefty hotel prices are booked at their homes.
While most events organised locally seem to be failing to grow, the carnival, now in its fifth year, has managed to pitch itself as a must-go-to event —especially for tourists. Two years ago, the event was featured by CNN as one of the best festivals in Africa — putting a lot of spotlight on them.
That was the year the event was graced by notable socialites from South Africa including Bonang Matheba.
Carnival spokesperson — Emmanuel Tivatyi said it took a lot of hard work and commitment for them to brand themselves in a way that would appeal to foreigners.
“We were quick to take up international trends like online booking and working on packages suitable for tourists because that’s the language they understand,” Tivatyi said.
“It’s not easy organising events. A lot of systems need to be put in place and we always meet to ensure that things go the way we want them to. Team work and reliable partners has got us this far.”
But, what has made the carnival unique and more appealing is the activities on offer. The advantage of holding the event on a holiday and in a resort town is that people are always kept occupied with other activities — putting less pressure on show organisers. During the day, carnival attendees spend their time bungee jumping, water rafting, walking in the rain forest or flying above the Vic Falls and diving with crocodiles — depending on one’s wallet. Those who prefer relaxing can do so at hotels, most which have views to die for, especially those along the Zambezi River.
Food lovers are spoilt for choice as there are a lot of new restaurants with international standards. On top of the list is the Shearwater Café and KFC which recently opened shop opposite the Kingdom Hotel.
Tivatyi said the introduction of big brands like KFC was a welcome development.
“At times, visitors feel good when they see names they’re used to so having KFC in Vic Falls is a positive development. A lot of people are thrilled by the restaurant and our hope is that more similar players come through.”
On this year’s carnival attendance, Tivatyi said about 4 000 revellers had come through adding that more were still buying tickets. Last year, the carnival attracted about 3 500 people.
“Business is booming in Vic Falls. Though this year’s carnival did not reach its full potential because of the economic crisis, we’re not complaining.
“A lot of people benefit immensely from the hosting of this event, especially activity suppliers who’re having record numbers because carnival goers are adventurous party freaks,” said Tivatyi.
The setback so far for the carnival has been the attempt of a train party from Bulawayo where carnivalists were meant to be ferried to the resort town in style, dancing and drinking till they arrive. That did not happen as only 15 people signed up for the party which was poorly marketed. As a result, the coach which has the disco was left behind — leaving the 15 to entertain themselves in a quiet and empty coach. However, their mood soon changed upon arrival at midday on Thursday. Carnival festivities began with a beach party by the riverside where music was played as carnivalists downed their sundowners while enjoying the warm weather and watching the sun set. Afterwards, parties were held across town with the main action being at Shoestrings were a welcome party was held.
Yesterday, the 15 from Bulawayo had another go in the train, this time for the real train party as carnivalists where ferried from the Vic Falls Train station to Jafuta — about 30kms out of Vic Falls for a train and bush party.
While carnival festivities were going on, Fallin’16 —another festival held to shut down the year was running concurrently at the Rest Camp. The outdoor event saw people being treated to quality music from Vic Falls DJ Spevah and Harare group — Trill Angel among many other entertainers.
Though it would seem as if Fallin’16 is a counter attraction, the event is actually a positive development as it has a vibe that is different from the carnival —giving the tourists and locals real value for their money as they are spoilt for choice. Fallin’16 which is being headlined by Winky D tomorrow has a more local touch to it while carnival has mostly foreign bands.