Tourist arrivals to the Victoria Falls have increased significantly in the last six months, with the United Kingdom leading the boom.

By Nokuthaba Dlamini

According to a survey compiled by Zimbabwean hospitality group, Africa Albida Tourism (AAT) Victoria Falls – Africa’s Living Soul: A Tourism Survey of the Victoria Falls Region, demand for accommodation, activities and access to the resort town have increased sharply.

The 2018 survey showed that there has been 390 000 international tourist arrivals and 160 000 local visitors, bringing the total to 550 000 over the past six months.

The Zambezi rainforest experiences a sharp increase since the beginning of the year, with 150 616 visiting the area, compared to 119 758 for the whole of last year.

This marks an average growth of 26% – 28% increase in foreign visitors and 15% rise in local visitors.

However, hotel stays grew at a slower pace, rising by 12,5% from 94 143 that was recorded last year to 106 183, since the beginning of the year.

In his analysis, AAT chief executive officer, Ross Kennedy said: “The survey creates a focal point for all interested parties to understand the current situation in regional tourism and help identify the challenges, opportunities and needs for sustainable economic growth, while managing conservation carefully.

He projected that Victoria Falls was set to become the next regional tourism hub adding to Cape Town, Johannesburg and Durban in South Africa.

Kennedy, however, cautioned that economic and political events in the region had negatively impacted on local and regional arrivals and this was not helped by cash shortages, poor air access, the weak rand and economic uncertainty.

Congested borders also exacerbated the situation.

“If the above issues are fixed, the markets will return, as already witnessed in 2018 since roadblocks were removed in Zimbabwe. There is also need to build capacity and services, create training facilities, develop new product, activities and experiences, building the public relations about Brand Zimbabwe and lastly enhance service, quality, hospitality and cuisine,” he said.

UK visitors in 2015 were at 5 524 and 12 765 last year.

The report noted “other frequent and pleasing figures” from the United States, Canada, Italy and Australia, while Japan, UK and China were growing. Germany, France and Netherlands tourists, who largely flooded the South African markets, where also said to be looking at crossing over into Zimbabwe.

The survey looked at Zambia (Livingstone), Botswana (Chobe/Kasane) Victoria Falls and Hwange, which also witnessed an increase in tourist arrivals due to improved air links between the three countries. The area is part of a region known as Zambesia.