Date: 18 December 2013
The recently announced ZANU-PF proposal to rename Victoria Falls has attracted mixed reactions from tourism players with some raising fears that a name change could make the resort town unpopular and affect tourism.
Zanu-PF resolved at its annual national conference in Chinhoyi that Victoria Falls and several other institutions must be renamed. The Zanu-PF committee on sports, culture, religion and liberation heritage chairperson Ignatius Chombo said it did not make any sense for colonial names to remain in place in an independent Zimbabwe.
Chief Mvutu, whose jurisdiction covers Victoria Falls, yesterday said he had no problem with the renaming of the resort town, but expressed scepticism at officially marketing one of nature's grandstands as Mosi Oa Tunya (the smoke that thunders) as it was originally called by the local Tonga-speaking people.
He said marketing the name Mosi Oa Tunya would be tantamount to handing over all the Victoria Falls tourism business to neighbouring Zambia since that name was widely used in that country. "It has been long since the place was known as Victoria Falls and a name change is not bad," Chief Mvutu said. "I will suggest that they call it Mapopoma Falls. I am running away from using the name Mosi Oa Tunya because in Livingstone (Zambia) the name is widely used for lodges, parks and other institutions which will definitely take business away."
The national parks at the premier tourist resort are Mosi Oa Tunya National Park on the Zambian side and Victoria Falls National Park on the Zimbabwean side. On the southern banks of the Zambezi River is the Zambezi National Park extending 40km west along the river.
However, Chief Mvutu warned the authorities against rushing to change the name saying they should first market the new name vigorously before officially renaming the resort town. "There is a danger that we are going to lose a number of tourists as they would not know about the new name. It's highly unlikely that our Zambian counterparts will change from using the name Victoria Falls, which will give them an advantage of tapping in on the influx of tourists," Mvutu said.
The Employers' Association of Tourism Operators (Eato) president and Shearwater Adventures public relations manager Clement Mukwasi said the government should engage a professional co-ordinator to manage the transition period as there was a risk of making Victoria Falls an unpopular destination thereby grossly affecting tourist arrivals which have been increasing tremendously in the past few months.
"The place is known as Victoria Falls in all international bodies such as the Unesco (United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organisation) and international marketing agencies, so an abrupt name change will make the destination unpopular," Mukwasi said.
"The transition should be professionally managed so that people know of the new destination. Otherwise Zanu-PF as the ruling party is free to have a name change of the resort area."
Hospitality Association of Zimbabwe (HAZ) Victoria Falls Chapter president Jonathan Hudson said millions of dollars would be needed to market the place and that would be costly to the country to re-establish Victoria Falls as a popular international destination.
"There is nothing wrong with changing the name, but it would be costly to tourism," Hudson said.
"We would have to spend millions of dollars to market the place to put it back on the international market. We need a vigorous marketing drive," he said.