A recent article found in the HARARE, June 26 edition of  The Source – stated – Zimbabwe Parks and Wildlife Management Authority (Zimparks) is planning to upgrade facilities and install artificial lighting in the famed Victoria Falls Rainforest, which it is considering opening round the clock to attract more tourists.
Approximately 200,000 people paid to visit the Rainforest in 2012. Zimparks feels the numbers are too low and is looking at the possibility of opening the Rainforest around the clock.
“As Zimparks we are looking at coming up with 7 star hotel facilities with conferencing services in the Victoria Falls National Park as well as improving the Rainforest waterfall viewpoints and the restaurant overlooking the Zambezi River,” Zimparks deputy director general George Manyumwa told a visiting Chinese delegation.
According to Parks – “There will also be a renovation of the entrance, to increase the range of services and luxury goods, duty free retail shops as well as illumination of the Rainforest to enable 24 hour visitation,”
This latest announcement by Parks comes hot on the heels of a recent announcement by the Minister of Tourism that the Government has concluded a design and concept deal with a Chinese company for the development of a large “Disney Land” type development on the outskirts of the resort town.

There has been major concern shown by the private sector in these announcements. Specifically, that such developments, instead of increasing demand for the unique product that Victoria Falls offers will undermine the value of the product and curb the recent increase in demand that is being experienced. The concern is based on the realization that the steady increase in demand can be met with well thought out and sustainable development rather than rushed development.

It seems that all parties agree that there is a need for further development in the area to improve on the income generated by tourism for the people of the country and region. However the feeling is that the development needs to be carefully thought out and planned it needs to be guided by a master plan that is agreed upon and bought into by stakeholders that must surely include representatives from all sectors – Government, Community, Cultural leaders and most importantly the private sector tourism businesses whose responsibility it will be to sell the region and provide the product.

There is a real concern that Government is moving at a rate on these decisions that may result in being counterproductive to the intrinsic value of the Falls area. The value of the Falls stems from the unique and unspoilt nature and wilderness within which the Falls are found and if by developing the area with the wrong projects we unwittingly undermine this value, we could reduce the demand for the product from the high end markets and see an influx of a mass market.

We look forward to seeing more stakeholder engagement in the weeks and months ahead.

VF24.com Editor 5