'Our hotels are too expensive' - Zambian official echoes rival Zim's tourism lament
Harare - 'Our hotels are too expensive and locals can't afford them.' Sound familiar?
Tourism authorities in cash-strapped Zimbabwe have been lamenting this for years - but now it seems officials in neighbouring Zambia are saying exactly the same thing.
Ironically, Zimbabwe eyes Zambia with envy as far as tourism is concerned, believing tourists are being lured in their hordes to the Zambian side of Victoria Falls (and beyond) by much cheaper prices.
That may not necessarily be the case, locals say.
An official from the Zambia Tourism Agency (ZTA) told the Lusaka Times this week that would-be Zambian holidaymakers can't afford to visit local resorts.
"Tour operators should look at introducing affordable rates in their packages for Zambians and that way they will have a lot of Zambians utilising your facilities," Jocelyn Mutinta told the Lusaka Times.
High charges are leading to "empty premises", she suggested.
Her comments will be an eye-opener to officials from Zimbabwe's tourism industry.
Only this week the state-controlled Chronicle newspaper from the Zimbabwean city of Bulawayo complained that tourists wanting to visit Victoria Falls were put off by Zimbabwe's "expensive" (because they're charged in US) tourist facilities and "now prefer flying into Livingstone in Zambia from where they undertake tourism activities".
Anecdotal evidence from Zambia this week suggests that residents looking for a cost-effective safari holiday may actually prefer to cross the border into Hwange and the Zimbabwe side of Victoria Falls, where game is more plentiful and government-owned Zimparks lodges provide a viable - and relatively cheap - accommodation option. Kafue National Park is Zambia's oldest and largest state park but lodges there are understood to be privately-owned and pricey, locals say.
Zimbabwe's tourism arrivals went up by 16% in the first quarter of 2016, Finance Minister Patrick Chinamasa says.
That was before the sudden surge in social discontent and the news Zimbabwe was to print its own banknotes.
Sadly, these two factors may do much to put off local and international visitors.