THE Zimbabwe Tourism Authority has urged tourism operators to review prices and put in place a competitive pricing model after research showed that the country is losing business to regional competitors and is being considered as an add-on to other destinations.
Assessing travel trends through the country’s ports of entry, the ZTA noted that many foreign tourists visiting the Victoria Falls, Zimbabwe’s flagship tourism resort, were coming through Kazungula and Victoria Falls border posts for single night stays and day trips, largely showing that they were avoiding staying in Zimbabwe.
The ZTA noted that prices of goods and services were generally cheaper in Zambia and Botswana than Zimbabwe, which could be one of the pull factors for international visitors.
“The visits to Zimbabwe were mostly just to view the Victoria Falls from the best vantage point, which is on the Zimbabwean side, as well as to partake in high adrenalin activities on the Victoria Falls Bridge. Observations have also revealed a pattern where tourists are booking in Livingstone, then cross over to Zimbabwe for day trips only to return to Zambia.
“This means that Zimbabwe is being considered as an add-on destination, which raises concerns of why there seems to be a bigger preference for Zambia which offers a similar tourism product to Zimbabwe,” said the ZTA, adding that this calls for the country to put in place a competitive pricing model in order to compete effectively with regional competitors in terms of attracting overseas tourists as a main destination and increasing the length of stay and total spend by tourists.
Statistics from ZTA showed that the country received about 11 898 arrivals from the United States of America in the first two months of the year but the American tourists entered Zimbabwe from Zambia while a significant number entered Zimbabwe from Botswana.
The ZTA said the trend continued with Japanese tourists as entries via Victoria Falls Barrier showed that the tourists were coming from Zambia, adding further to the impression created by the USA market, that Zimbabwe is an add-on destination from both Botswana and Zambia.
“This once again brings pricing issues to the fore in explaining this preference and this calls for Zimbabwe to review prices all round,” said the ZTA.
The tourism body said arrival trends in the region were worrisome for Zimbabwe as they showed massive movement of tourists entering from neighbouring Botswana and Zambia and passing through Zimbabwe.
“It is well known that Zimbabwe presents the best viewing side of Victoria Falls, hence urgent interventions are needed to ensure a more even distribution of tourist arrivals with Zimbabwe’s two neighbours and competitors.”
However, operators in the country said the only pricing model that works is market forces.
Africa Albida Tourism chief executive officer Mr Ross Kennedy said there were many factors at play in the choice by tourists before they visit including ease and cost of access, visa policy and costs as well as experiences and border reception.
“The travelling public will vote with their feet and disposable income according to quality, service, experience and hospitality.
The average length of stay in our various accommodation units is in fact 2,5 nights in Victoria Falls and even more in the self catering lodges, towards four nights. When we opened more than 20 years ago the average length of stay in Victoria Falls was just overnight,” said Mr Kennedy.
He said the majority of arrivals were coming into the country through Victoria Falls along with Livingstone Airport due to cheaper air fares.