Tourism re-opening to save players from collapse

ALTHOUGH the novel Covid-19 pandemic has almost grounded various industries leading to streamlining of workforce due to loss of business, the tourism sector players remain hopeful for better prospects.

Following Government stance to rope in all stakeholders in a drive to rebuild the country’s image and economy, tourism players including hoteliers have come to the party by launching a massive marketing drive for destination Zimbabwe.

Environment, Climate, Tourism and Hospitality Industry Minister Nqobizitha Mangaliso Ndlovu a fortnight ago gave the players in the tourism industry in Victoria Falls the nod to tour the Rainforest to take footage to be used to market the country.

Working with the Zimbabwe Parks and Wildlife Management Authority (ZimParks) the sector organised itself and toured the World Heritage site over two days. The Victoria Falls National Park, which houses the Falls and Rainforest, was closed in March as a result of the coronavirus. Under the latest marketing offensive, the tourism industry in Victoria Falls has already started reaching out to clients, agents and partners all over the world riding on the already existing “We are Victoria Falls Initiative”.

Players spoken to said the sector is not dissuaded by the lockdown, which has seen the Falls reaching an all-time peak in over a decade albeit with no tourists witnessing it.

Ms Shelly Cox, who co-ordinates the “We are Victoria Falls Initiative” paid tribute to Government and ZimParks for affording tour operators the chance to get into the Rainforest and witness the volume of water cascading over the Victoria Falls.

“It was rejuvenating and motivating for many to be back in one of the world’s wonders and be reminded of how blessed we are to have this Unesco World Heritage site as part of our natural heritage in Zimbabwe,” she said.

Elephants Walk operator Mrs Gail Van Jaarsveldt said: “Now we are going out there to tell the world that despite the ‘Falls is dry’ negative publicity, we will say the Mighty Falls again after Covid-19. The Falls are displaying their spectacular beauty.”

Wild Spoor Safaris founder Mr Lewis Mangaba said they cannot wait any longer to host international clients again.

“We got pictures and we are sending them across the globe to all our contacts and agents who are mostly from US, Europe, Germany and Australia,” he said.

Another indigenous operator Mr Oliver Mwembe of Inkwazi Tours and Transfers said effective marketing with enable the country to regain business lost due to the lockdown.

“It’s nice to see the Falls at their fullest although they’re being wasted by Covid-19 as we’re losing tourists,” said Mr Mwembe.

Government is engaging stakeholders with a view to open domestic tourism.

Jafuta Foundation director Ms Danielle Connolly, who is also a yoga teacher, said: “We are filled with joy to have been accorded opportunity to experience the Falls for the first time in three months,” she said.

An executive from Sable Sands in the Hwange National Park, Ms Marleen Post added her voice saying safari and tour of the Falls are the major draw cards.

“International travellers come to the country for safari and the Falls. We have heard the Falls so loudly everyday and seen the green tropical forest from afar as they are at their peak.” she said.

Mr William Henson from Shongwe Lookout said reopening the industry will save smaller operators that are on the verge of total collapse.

“We hope we can open soon for domestic tourism as each day without tourists is a day closer to some of the smaller tourism operators closing down permanently. We are all eager to reignite our tourism and be able to support the livelihoods that tourism sustains and our natural wild open spaces that Zimbabwe is renowned for,” said Mr Henson.–

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