Vic Falls claws back
Four years before the biggest sporting showcase makes its maiden visit to this continent, Victoria Falls is getting ready to get a huge share of the tourism receipts from the World Cup.
Two weeks ago the inaugural Victoria Falls marathon was held in the town ‘ part of an international campaign by Zimbabwe’s tourism authorities to push the name of the tourist resort into the conscience of the world.
Victoria Falls ‘ one of the seven wonders of the world ‘ took the brunt of the battering from reduced tourist arrivals as Zimbabwe weathered a severe storm at the turn of the century.
Persistent reports by the international media that there was turmoil in this country in the aftermath of the land reform programme led to a sharp decline in tourist arrivals.
Victoria Falls ‘ a town that exclusively depends on tourism ‘ suffered during that period.
Now it appears things are changing.
There has been a sharp increase in foreign tourists coming to the town in recent months and hotels have been recording brisk business.
“We have not yet reached the level that we were used to but things have been looking good of late and that is very encouraging,” a hotel manager told Southern Times last week.
“I think the occupancy ratio in all the major hotels is still down but, at least, the graph appears to be moving in the right direction and that is what is important.
“I don’t know why there has been such a dramatic increase but I believe that more and more foreign tourists are spreading the correct message that we are not as bad as some of the reports that they have been reading in the papers.
“We knew that it would only be a matter of time because the Victoria Falls, by nature, have their own special qualities and people will always come to see them.”
It appears that the 2010 World Cup finals has become the rallying point of those who want to bring the foreign tourists back to the Falls.
Plans have been mooted for the building of a new stadium in the town, which could be used as a training ground by teams going to the World Cup in South Africa, or the refurbishment of the stadium in the high-density suburb of Chinotimba.
“Whichever way that you look at it, those coming to the World Cup finals will try to get a chance to have a look at the Victoria Falls,” said Chamu Ncube, a veteran tour guide.
“That is why it is important for this town and everyone in Government to ensure that we have the right facilities to entice the big teams to come here for their preparations.
“But to do that we need a very good stadium and that means we have to refurbish the one that we have right now or to build a new one.
“We have seen a number of Zambian trucks passing through this town with an assortment of building material and they have been telling us that they are building a stadium for the World Cup finals.
“That is the approach that we need, to get things going from right now, if we are to get a good share from the World Cup.
“I believe that everyone in this town understands the importance of the World Cup to us and that is why the tournament is the talk of the town right now even though it is four years away.
“There have been a number of meetings that have been held, even at town council level, where the World Cup finals have featured prominently.
“The holding of the Victoria Falls International marathon was also a huge step in the right direction and we believe that is just the start of some big things that are on the way.”
Maria Oleg, a 49-year-old businesswoman, was in Victoria Falls as part of a group of Russians on a month-long tour of Zimbabwe.
“I believe the Victoria Falls are a massive sight and I enjoyed myself very much.
“I’m a football fan and I’m a keen follower of the Russian team and Chelsea because of Mr Roman Abramovich’s involvement.
“I hope to come down here again when the World Cup is held in South Africa in 2010 and hopefully we will have a very good time.
“I think there will be a lot of fun for everyone during that time and a lot of European tourists will also come down here.
“This is my first time in Africa and I enjoyed watching the animals, especially the elephants.”
No Zimbabwean town demonstrates the warm hospitality spirit associated with the people of this country than Victoria Falls.
“It’s a beautiful, small place and what I liked most was that there isn’t a lot of traffic on the roads which gives you a perfect chance to relax,” said Michael Fash, a French tourist.
“I’m pretty sure that I will be back again in four years time to see my team winning the World Cup finals after our heart-breaking loss in Germany this year.
“This is a lovely town to relax but the disappointment is that you are not hosting any game and that means there will have to be a lot of movement for the fans.