Local vendors claimed they have supplied raincoats to tourists keen to avoid getting drenched by showers at the Falls for more than 20 years and were stunned to see business suddenly nose-dive in recent days.
Said Rainforest Indigenous Traders Association chairman Arthur Mutava: “We have been providing this form of service over the years and no touring company has been providing it.
“Tourists have been paying about US$3 for hiring raincoats but business suddenly took a nose dive when the operators started providing the same service.”
Another association official Matthew Muleya added: “In a way they are sabotaging the black empowerment programme because we cannot all go and work in their companies.
“In addition to that, most of them ran away when tourism was at its lowest and now that arrivals are on the increase they come back and put us out of business.
“This is a natural resource we proudly own but some elements among us want to grab everything for themselves.”
The row escalated last Friday when the major tour operators snubbed a meeting called to resolve the dispute forcing the traders to threaten to block entry to the Falls.
Some of the major tour operators in the resort include Wild Horizons, Tourism Services Zimbabwe, Silver Tours, Bush Track, Mapopoma Cruises, Dingani Tours and Victoria Falls Anytime.
Only Victoria Falls Anytime turned up for the meeting and company spokesperson, Lungile Ndlovu said they had stopped supplying raincoats to their clients to enable small scale businesses to benefit from the tourism industry.
Victoria Falls is the country's premier tourist attraction and vendors have made a living from selling various items including curios and bottled water as well as renting out binoculars and raincoats.
Source: Storm over Victoria Falls raincoats (23/04/12)