Leonard Ncube in Victoria Falls
INDIA is among the key source markets for tourism traffic in Victoria Falls and this week’s International Yoga Day celebrations have shown how socio-cultural events can contribute more to the revival of the tourism industry.
Players in the tourism industry have welcomed the event, which they say has the potential to attract more tourists and boost arrivals in the country.
More than 150 people, comprising members of the Indian community from across the country converged on the Victoria Falls Rainforest on Tuesday where the event was held and were joined by scores of residents.
Indian Ambassador to Zimbabwe Mr Vijay Khan Duja, who is also a Yoga trainer, participated at the event, which he said has the capacity to attract more tourist from the Asian country.
Such events auger well with Government deliberate policy to promote tourism through Meetings, Incentives, Conferences and Exhibitions (MICE), which are key to the Tourism Recovery Strategy towards that seeks to realise US$5 billion tourism earnings by 2025.
“This is the 8th international Yoga Day and today we are witnessing two wonders — Victoria Falls and Yoga,” said Mr Khan.
He said Yoga means union as it connects people and gives them skill in life.
“Yoga gives us skill, focus, usefulness, relief from stress and anxiety.
It is not a religious practice as it has nothing to do with any religion though it originated from India,” said Amb Khan.
“It is practiced in a number of countries especially in the west.
This is a potential tourism attraction. Currently Zimbabwe receives between 2 000 and 3 000 tourists from India per annum and this is below potential as Indian tourists travel around the world.
Zimbabwe has a number of world class attractions and there is a lot more potential,” he said.
India and Zimbabwe also have strong trade relations with movement of goods and services in excess of US$200 000 million realised per year.
Mr Khan said there is need for more direct and official trading between the two countries as they forge more bilateral relations in all dimensions.
The Indian Embassy in Zimbabwe partnered with Zimbabwe Parks and Wildlife Management Authority and Government of Zimbabwe to host the event.
Zimbabwe Tourism Authority chief operating officer, Mr Givemore Chidzidzi, said the Indian market is one of the major source markets for tourism in Victoria Falls.
“Such events as Yoga and the upcoming Econet Victoria Falls marathon are powerful occasions that dovetail with the MICE perspective that develop our tourism,” he said.
“The Yoga event is a seed being sown today and we know it will grow big and if properly marketed we can get more tourists coming from it,” said Mr Chidzidzi.
Local organiser, Ms Kerrith O’Fee, said the idea is to help people away from memories of the effects of Covid-19 that affected all economic sectors due to lockdowns.
“Yoga is a great way to relieve stress as people travel around the world.
So, coming to Vic Falls for Yoga will have higher benefits,” said Ms O’Fee.
A local participant Ms Margaret Muzanenhamo said Victoria Falls needs more such events.
“I have always seen Yoga on TV and as a sportsperson when I got the opportunity I had to come do it.
I really enjoyed and I wish this can happen most often as we get to meet people from different places, which is good for us as a tourism city,” she said.
Ms Fungai Katuruza added: “This is my first time attending a Yoga event.
As an African I feel Yoga is more of an exercise than a religion judging by how it is done and what it does to you and it if was a religious event we would have seen some idols placed here for that particular religion.”
In a statement to celebrate Yoga Day, United Nations resident and humanitarian coordinator in Zimbabwe Mr Edward Kallon said Yoga has gained universal appeal and it is trending as a practice by millions the world over in their quest to achieve healthy lifestyles.
“As we mark the International Day of Yoga in Zimbabwe, it is worth noting that the country has committed to the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development and its 17 goals, particularly SDG3, which aims to achieve quality health for all,” he said.