Leonard Ncube, Victoria Falls Reporter
DESTINATION Victoria Falls continues to gain the confidence of worldwide tourism, with the luxurious South African Blue Train making an emotional return almost five years after its last trip to the country’s resort town.
The train was briefly in Victoria Falls on Saturday on a familiarisation trip as its proprietors are reportedly planning to celebrate its 75th anniversary here on a date to be announced.
Although it came with no passengers on board, the Blue Train’s arrival evoked memories of the luxurious rail cruise the train offered between Cape Town and Victoria Falls.
It stopped at the National Railways of Zimbabwe Victoria Falls station before going back to Cape Town.
Its arrival coincided with the monthly trip by another luxurious train, Rovos, which brought in 68 passengers and departed with 78 over the weekend, rubberstamping Victoria Falls’ status as a world class and preferred destination.
The Blue Train has been synonymous with luxury since 1946, after having been initially called the Union Limited or the Union Express.
People started calling it Blue Train because of the sapphire blue carriages it uses to carry tourists and it traces its history to the 1890s during the discovery of diamonds in South Africa. It was named the Blue Train in 1946 and celebrated 50 years in 1996.
While both the Blue Train and Rovos shuttle between Cape Town and Victoria Falls via Beitbridge, Rovos proceeds to Tanzania.
Both offer moving 5-star hotel service from South Africa, with the luxury rail cruise offering tourists an opportunity to view South Africa and Zimbabwe’s spectacular landscapes and visits to various attractions along the way.
Tourism executives said the Blue Train was in Victoria Falls on a market research to check on the destination ahead of the 75th anniversary to be held in Victoria Falls.
Employers Association for Tourism and Safari Operators national chair Mr Clement Mukwasi said the coming of the two trains rubber stamps Victoria Falls as a preferred destination, especially after the city achieved herd immunity with vaccination of about 60 percent of the population.
“The Blue Train was in Victoria Falls a few days ago but it didn’t come to deliver tourists. The coming of the Blue Train is actually a declaration of confidence in the green zone status of Victoria Falls. We haven’t gotten dates yet but they are preparing for their 75 anniversary here this year.
“Remember Victoria Falls reached herd immunity following launch of the vaccination programme here and that message has gone out and it has attracted huge markets to come through to Victoria Falls. We have always been an attraction but the fact that we now have herd immunity gives us an extra edge over all other competitors,” said Mr Mukwasi.
The journey between Cape Town and Victoria Falls takes a few days and different packages are offered along the way giving a top tourism adventure.
The trains will bring significant numbers of tourists who book into hotels and sample a number of activities including a tour of the Victoria Falls Bridge.
It is the fifth time Rovos has come to Victoria Falls since March this year as it makes monthly trips.
Victoria Falls is the heart of the Okavango and Zambezi basin known as Kavango-Zambezi Trans-frontier Conservation Area (KAZA) and tourists who make a pilgrimage around the region would generally visit the Unesco World Heritage site, some using air, road and rail transport.
Hospitality Association of Zimbabwe Matabeleland North chair Mr Anald Musonza said Victoria Falls’ future looks bright as evidenced by confidence shown by service providers in returning to the [email protected]