SOUTH Africa must stop advertising Victoria Falls as its own destination, as Zimbabwe is losing out in terms of tourism revenues, deputy chief secretary to the President and Cabinet, Ray Ndhlukula, has said.
Speaking at an All Stakeholders Zimbabwe Image Management workshop in Harare yesterday, Ndhlukula said it was disturbing that tourists were now flying in and out of Zimbabwe on the same day.
“Do you know South Africa advertises Victoria Falls as if it belongs to South Africa? That is what they do. A lot of people (tourists) get the impression that Victoria Falls is part of South Africa. So, for example, they get to the Victoria Falls at 10am, view the falls, they have lunch there and then at 4pm, they are flying out,” he said.
“There are some people, who have asked if Victoria Falls is in South Africa, but South Africans do not tell them it is in Zimbabwe, which is very unfair for us. It is an issue we need to discuss with South Africa. Now, that we have got a bilateral agreement, they must stop advertising Victoria Falls as theirs.”
The workshop was aimed at improving the Zimbabwean brand.
Victoria Falls is the country’s premier tourist destination and has the second highest tourist occupancy rate after Harare.
The Zimbabwe Tourism Authority first quarter report shows that Victoria Falls had an occupancy rate of 35% from 450 572 tourists, who visited the country during that period.
The threat of neighbouring countries, mainly, South Africa and Zambia, was seen when occupancy levels declined by 2% from the first quarter of 2015.
Zimbabwe Council of Tourism (ZCT) president, Francis Ngwenya said “something” needed to be done, as the competition from neighbouring countries had become a major challenge facing the tourism sector.
“The reason why South Africa started marketing the country as theirs was because during the 2008/9 crisis, Zimbabwe could only market the country with South Africa and Zambia. This led to our brand (Zimbabwe) being overtaken. So something needs to be done,” he said.
Ngwenya said the country had to use Zambia and South Africa because of the negative perception that came from the 2008/9 period.
An analyst said that from his previous experience, the only way to market Victoria Falls and stop other countries from elbowing out Zimbabwe was to offer a very attractive package that would lure tourists to explore the country beyond Victoria Falls.
In 2015, ZCT polled 145 tourists staying at Victoria Falls, and discovered 74% to be using international agents in making their trip, with only 10% preferring local agents. The average budget for tourists was $1 900 per visit.
However, ZCT found that 52% of them underestimated the costs and ended up spending more than their budget.
The average stay for a tourist is two to three nights.