Leonard Ncube, Victoria Falls Reporter
THE city of Victoria Falls was teeming with activity on Christmas Day as hordes of tourists, both local and foreign, descended on the country’s prime tourism resort to spend the holiday.
Tour operators and hoteliers said it is a busy and hectic period with over 70 percent occupancy rate and bookings for activities until after New Year’s Day.
The tourism players are optimistic that the trend will continue after the New Year’s Day into 2023 as the tourism industry regains its feet post Covid-19. December is usually busy with local tourists as families travel for holiday.
Following the outbreak of Covid-19 in 2020, the tourism industry recorded cancellations of bookings and trips by international travellers.
Tourism is one of the key economic drivers alongside mining, agriculture and manufacturing, and in 2019, the country raked in over US$1,23 billion from 2,29 million arrivals.
However, the sector was one of the worst affected after the global pandemic caused the closure of business due to travel restrictions.
In light of a huge influx of tourists during the festive season, players in the tourism industry are confident that the sector is on the recovery path, which will see it rising to pre-Covid-19 peak levels.
While tourists’ movement around the city is limited because of the scorching heat in the afternoon, mornings have been largely characterised by long winding queues as holidaymakers jostled to enter into the Rainforest.
In the afternoon, most trippers prefer going for activities such as helicopter flights and boat cruises.
Mrs Pauline Mhaka who arrived from Harare with her family on Christmas Eve, said she could not get enough of leisure in the city.
Yesterday, Mrs Mhaka and her family went on a sunset cruise after enjoying the “Flight of Angels”.
“The experience was just exhilarating. We have been here in Victoria Falls for the holiday and today is our fourth day. Of all activities, we enjoyed the helicopter flight the most because I managed to get an aerial view of the gorges,” she said.
“I realised there are some spots that you can’t view from the ground but aerially you can get a magnificent view. As Zimbabwe, we are blessed because of the mighty Victoria Falls.”
Victoria Falls is one of the busiest tourist destinations with the Rainforest, one of the Seven Natural Wonders of the World, a draw card.
“We wanted to rub shoulders with international tourists and even interact with wild animals while also experiencing the magnificent breathtaking view of the Falls,” said Mrs Mhaka
Ms Kelly Mun, who flew all the way from the United States, said it was her second time visiting the country.
Her first time was in 2016 when she visited Victoria Falls to attend the Victoria Falls Carnival which was traditionally held between December 29 and 31, and attracted thousands of fun lovers from across the world.
Some tourists enjoyed shopping especially at curio markets. At the Rainforest entrance, some tourists could be seen visiting curio vendors’ shops and sampling artifacts.
A traditional dance group entertained tourists at the nearby car park. Most boats at the jetty side were full of a mixture of nationalities enjoying a cruise.
Hospitality Association of Zimbabwe (HAZ) chairman for Matabeleland North Mr Anald Musonza said the city had been busy over the last few days.
“Business has been good so far over the festive season with around 70 percent average occupancy. This is a huge growth compared to the last two years and this shows the resilience that our tourism industry has,” he said.
“We look forward to a busy New Year’s Day and hopefully into the new year.”
Tourism executive, Mr Clement Mukwasi said hopes are high for an improvement in terms of travelling.
“This year, the Christmas holiday has been very busy and hectic. It is the first after such a long time of low activity due to Covid-19, and now almost all accommodation facilities were full and activities are bustling,” said Mr Mukwasi.
Boat cruises, helicopter flights and tour of the Rainforest are the most popular activities.
Local residents are also cashing in on the accommodation overspill as they avail their houses for bed and breakfast.
Regarded as the country’s tourism capital, Victoria Falls was recently named second best place to visit this year by a German publication while a United States travel magazine Travel + Leisure also named one of the local facilities, Victoria Falls Safari Lodge, as one of the 500 best hotels in the world and among the top five in Africa. – @ncubeleon
Article Source: The Chronicle