Leonard Ncube, Victoria Falls Reporter
THE world’s largest waterfall, Victoria Falls, officially opened to the public Wednesday bringing joy to tourism operators who said the development marks a huge step towards re-opening of the industry.
The world heritage site, comprising the Rainforest, Waterfall and David Livingstone Statue was closed in March as a response to worldwide travel restrictions caused by the novel Covid-19.
Since then the facility had remained closed, only opening for a few days last month when Government allowed tourism operators to take footage to market the prime resort destination.
Last week Government passed a Statutory Instrument allowing Zimbabwe Parks and Wildlife Management Authority (Zimparks) to open national parks and some amenities, while also allowing restaurants to open for sit in clients.
A visit to the Rainforest shows that Zimparks had set a health desk at the entrance where temperature checks and sanitization of visitors is done. The floor at the entrance has been tiled to enable cleaning for disinfection purposes.
Along Livingstone Road from the Central Business District leading to Victoria Falls border post past the Rainforest entrance, workmen were busy re-painting road signs.
Being the first day of re-opening, there were a few people on Wednesday, mostly operators, who visited the Rainforest. Zimparks has pegged entrance fees at US$7 or $441 per head. Proprietor of Jacaranda Lodge, Mrs Zhen Lihong who was in the company of her husband Mr Yu Yisheng said the re-opening was the first step towards resumption of regional and international tourism.
“It’s a beautiful sight and we are happy that the Falls have been opened after about 100 days. I was here in February and have been coming to check if it’s open. We hope people will come. We hope everything opens soon because we had tourists that were coming from China and we would want them to come back,” she said.
Another operator from DK Tours and Safaris, Mr Webster Musaidzi said: “We have got connections that we have been dealing with and we will take pictures and share with them on social media for them to see.”
A tour guide based in Robins Camp in the Hwnage National Park Mr Simon Chinwadzimba said hopes were high for the local sector to attract more tourists.
“We are very excited by the opening of the Falls, which had been closed for some time. This is a very exciting moment and we hope it will attract more people and help the whole sector in Victoria Falls,” he said.
Hospitality Association of Zimbabwe (HAZ) Victoria Falls chapter chair Mr Anald Musonza said the excitement in the tourism sector was immeasurable.
“We are excited as the tourism and hospitality industry that the Victoria Falls and national parks are now officially open. This will help us re-open our businesses with confidence that our guests can come and experience the world wonder and do game drives.
“It was encouraging to see some locals going into the Falls today. We are encouraging all local travel agents and tour operators to start having affordable local packages to kick-start domestic tourism. Now is the time and I am glad to report that Zimparks has put Covid-19 protocols in place for health and safety of staff and guests,” said Mr Musonza.
Some restaurants have since opened in anticipation of coming in of clients. Three Monkeys general manager Mr Greg Paymans said they opened on Tuesday and had put necessary health provisions to cater for clients and staff as they hope for business to start going up.