The number of tourists to Zimbabwe's premier resort centre, Victoria Falls, has risen by 21% to 150 000 in the first six months of this year due to improved air connectivity, a survey has shown.
Titled Victoria Falls Gateway, the survey conducted by tourism group Africa Albida shows that the number of tourists is expected to reach 605 000 by year-end compared to 520 000 achieved in 2017.
Since its $150 million upgrade last year, Victoria Falls International Airport is serviced by eight airlines — Air Zimbabwe, South African Airlink, fastjet, South African Airways, British Airways, Ethiopian Airways, Air Namibia and Kenya Airways.
Early this year, the Zimbabwe Tourism Authority said the rising number of airlines and visitors could help the resort town grow into a regional tourism hub.
The findings of the Africa Albida survey show that Victoria Falls was the third most visited falls globally in 2017 with 500 000 visitors, after Niagara Falls (12 million) and Iguazu Falls (1,7 million), respectively.
The survey investigated tourist visits to Victoria Falls, Livingstone (Zambia), Chobe/Kasane (Botswana), and Hwange (Zimbabwe). Both the rainforest and falls in Victoria Falls remain Zimbabwe's top attractions.
"There was a further sharp increase in visitor numbers to the Zimbabwe side rainforest in 2018 of 26%, but foreign visitor number growth rose 28% vs local 15%. Hotel accommodation stays again grew less than the rainforest visits at 12,5% in 2018 first six months, again reflecting a boom in non-hotel stay on the Zimbabwe side," the report read.
Hotel room stays in the first half of the year totalled 106 183.
"The area is probably on a growth trajectory slightly below the 10% curve (a growth of 10% per annum over the next five years). However, the Zimbabwe side saw compound growth in arrivals exceeding 20% in the boom times of the 1990's for six consecutive years. It is possible that the Zimbabwean side is headed for growth similar to or exceeding the 15% line, which doubles visitor numbers under five years," the report further read.
The survey found that the Zimbabwean side of Victoria Falls recorded total visitor entries, both local and foreign, of 317 778 in 2017, a 36% increase on two years ago.
About 205 469 of the visitors were from overseas markets from 151 839 in 2016.
The United States was the biggest source of visitors to Victoria Falls on the Zimbabwean side, accounting for 73 803 visitors in 2017, followed by Germany (25 855), Australia (17 023), France (16 092) and Japan (31 702).
However, the findings also showed that Zimbabwe is the most expensive in the region due to the strength of the United States dollar.
A 2015 survey conducted by the Zimbabwe Council for Tourism in 2015 on 145 tourists in Victoria Falls found that 52% of the visitors were spending more than their budget due to higher costs.
Source: Air transport connectivity boosts Vic Falls tourism (02/10/18)