Image by Simon Matzinger from Pixabay

Victoria Falls is gearing up for re-opening. Government ministers, as well as Zimbabwe Tourism Authority (ZTA) and National Parks’ top brass, recently visited the tourist town of Victoria Falls to assess the situation first-hand. The officials met with key stakeholders in the industry, aiming to prepare for the eventual resumption of tourism in a safe and sustainable manner.

Tourism operators, reeling in the wake of international travel bans due to COVID-19, are eager to re-open as soon as international travel resumes. However, the industry and Government are determined to do it in a manner which ensures the safety of tourists and tourism workers. Government, in partnership with tourism operators, has developed protocols and guidelines to be released to the industry allowing a cautious, staged re-opening.

In an interview with Victoriafalls24 Godfrey Koti, head of corporate affairs for ZTA, stressed that the Government was focused on “health before wealth”. Priority has been given to equipping medical facilities and creating protocols for tourism operators.

“We want our guests to know we are a safe, organised destination,” he said.

All institutions dealing with tourists now have stringent protocols to follow prior to reopening, outlined in SI90 of 2020 and in accordance with World Health Organisation guidelines. Hotels and lodges are encouraged to reach out to ZTA to have their facilities deemed fit for opening.

At a meeting with Victoria Falls stakeholders on Monday night Environment, Climate, Tourism and Hospitality Industry Minister, Nqobizitha Mangaliso Ndlovu, fielded questions from tourism players. Attendees were interested in when National Parks would reopen to local visitors. Operators expressed eagerness to get into parks to show the world what Zimbabwe has to offer through social media platforms. Zambia’s National are now open and accommodation providers are already receiving strong bookings from domestic travelers eager to see the Victoria Falls at its highest level in over a decade. The minister and the Director General of National Parks, Mr. Fulton Mangwanya, indicated that it would not be long until parks re-open, but reiterated that it must be done in accordance with national safety guidelines.

Tourism operators, while doing it tough, remain optimistic about the future. Plans are underway on a recovery plan which centers around promoting Victoria Falls and the KAZA region as the Southern African hub for safari travel. The region has a sparse population, plenty of sunshine and wide-open spaces where the incidence of Covid-19 has been extremely low.

The Minister also restated the Government’s commitment to a ZWL 500 million support package to assist tourism operators through the tough time. This facility for working capital is available to ZTA registered operators through their banks.

-Editor JH