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Thursday, 18 April 2019

Victoria Falls Hotel bookings decline

Victoria Falls’ average room occupancy level for the Independence and Easter holidays is hovering around 60% with tourism players in the resort town pinning their hopes of improved business on last minute bookings from regional and international tourists.

After recording brisk business during the 2018 Easter and Independence holidays, hoteliers in the country’s premier tourism destination have to contend with subdued bookings as the slow start to the year continues to impact on the sector.

Average room occupancy for the destination, which stood at around 78% for the 2018 Easter holidays, is currently hovering around 60% this year.

Hospitality Association of Zimbabwe (HAZ) Victoria Falls Chapter Chairperson, Mr Farai Chimba said despite the decline in bookings compared to last year, the industry remains confident of positive figures going forward to be driven by aggressive marketing and renewed confidence in the destination.

“We have certain days which are filled up but we are seeing an overall decline in occupancy for the period leading up to Tuesday. We are expecting an average room occupancy of 61% for the five days of holidays and still optimistic that last minute bookings will help increase the occupancy level,” he said.

Easter and Independence holidays bookings are traditionally dominated by domestic tourists and due to subdued disposable incomes and fuel challenges, many locals could not travel to the destination.
Some tourism analysts have also attributed the downturn and slow start to the year to the election period in neighboring South Africa which is a key source market for the country.

Despite the subdued bookings, many hoteliers in the resort town are currently running promotions and holiday specials in a bid to entice local tourists and to promote domestic tourism.

Source: Victoria Falls Hotel bookings decline (17/04/19)

Sunday, 14 April 2019

Free entry for locals into Victoria Falls

VICTORIA FALLS residents will be allowed free entry into the famed Rainforest on this year’s Independence and Heroes Days as government responds to complaints by locals that they were not benefitting from their God given resource.
While elsewhere, residents benefit from natural resources around them through community share ownership schemes bankrolled by businesses exploiting their resources, the situation is different with Victoria Falls where residents do not benefit directly from the lucrative tourism industry.
Residents have repeatedly appealed to government and authorities for free entry or reduced fees into the Rainforest and game parks.
Two years ago, residents petitioned Parliament demanding to be allowed free entry into the Rainforest.
They said their children were being disadvantaged and failing in school yet the Rainforest is closer to them because they cannot afford entry fees into the area.
It costs $7 for locals to enter the Rainforest and US$20 for those from the Sadc region.
Last week, the Zimbabwe Parks and Wildlife Authority hiked entry fees for locals to $20, a move which was immediately reversed by Environment, Tourism and Hospitality Industry Minister Prisca Mupfumira following an outcry.
Speaking in Victoria Falls during the week, Minister Mupfumira said government was working on packages for Victoria Falls locals to benefit from the resources around them.
“I resisted increase to parks fees and even threatened the Zimparks director general because these fees are too high for locals. We are carrying an exercise to slash fees and we will be giving free entry for locals during the independence holiday and even the heroes day holidays,” she said.
The minister said free entry will also be extended to citizens above 80 as well as school children.
She said the country cannot not afford to thumb suck because it is losing business in Victoria Falls to Livingstone in Zambia and Francistown in Botswana where charges are much cheaper.
Speaking at a meeting with the minister last week in Victoria Falls, residents reiterated their demands for special packages.
Fortunate Mugwaha of Pride Africa Safaris said locals should be allowed to benefit from tourism because that is their heritage.
Schools across the country visit Victoria Falls for a tour of resorts and residents believe local schools should be afforded the opportunity to enter the Rainforest free of charge.
Even other activities such as rafting, bungee jumping, canoeing, and game drives among other are way beyond reach of ordinary citizens and locals can only watch as those with money from across the country and internationally enjoy.