Tourist arrivals to Victoria Falls have dropped by 20 percent, but operators are confident that 2016 will see an increase. It is a difficult time for tourism to cut costs in the face of high living expenses and the current uncertain political and economic environment.
Victoria Falls, Zimbabwe, experienced a 20 percent drop in tourist arrivals in 2015 compared with 2014 according to the Employers’ Association of Tourism and Safari Operators (EATSO). However, operators are confident that 2016 will be better, thanks in part to the new airport. Clement Mukwasi, EATSO President, said that the aftereffects of the Ebola virus and a tax on foreign tourists were the main causes of the drop.
There seems to be some dispute over these statistics and although tour operators and product owners have confirmed that tourism has been down, Africa Albida Tourism CE, Ross Kennedy, argues tourist arrivals to Zimbabwe and the Victoria Falls were not down 20 percent. “According to hotel statistics kept by 10 leading hotels in Victoria Falls, room occupancy was only down 2 percent between 2014 and 2015, and entry numbers to the Victoria Falls Rainforest were down 2.6 percent year on year.” Kennedy adds that he did notice a downturn in tourism in 2015, but this was rescued in November and December by a significant rise in visitor numbers. He says: “If it had not been for this surge in the last couple of months in 2015, tourist numbers would have been 8 percent down for the year.”
Ebola Scare And Currency
The Ebola scare had a major impact on tourism to the region, especially since international travellers tended to plan well in advance. People also believe that the SA visa restrictions had an effect, as well as the dropping rates of the Euro, the Australian dollar and the Rand against the US$. There has been a great interest shown by the big markets that had stopped or reduced travel to Zimbabwe.
With the new Vic Falls International Airport coming online, and an improvement in SA’s visa situation and a ‘properly sorted’ KAZA UniVisa between the countries in the region, there could be a potential boost in tourism.
However, the high value of the US$ compared with other currencies could be challenging for Zimbabwe.