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Vic Falls triggers battle

Shakeman Mugari in Durban

A TOURISM Indaba in Durban this week brought to the fore the battle between Zimbabwe and Zambia over Victoria Falls, with each country cla

iming to have better packages for tourists visiting one of the world’s 10 natural wonders.

Zambia and Zimbabwe operators were at the show to market their sides of the falls, with each claiming that they offer the best view of the falls.

The Indaba, held in the coastal city of Durban, is regarded as the biggest annual tourism event in the region.

Zimbabwe operators at the function battled to fend off questions over the negative perception of the country by international tourists, created by the country’s worsening economic situation as well as the deteriorating political and social environment.

Zimbabwe’s tourism sector has slumped 60% over the past six years, with most European countries — the main source markets — issuing strong travel warnings against their citizens visiting the country.

This has given the Zambians a major boost to their tourism industry, with visitors to the country now turning to Zambia to see the scenic wonder.

In Victoria Falls, arrivals have hit a six-year low, with hotel bookings reportedly hovering around 38%.

Zimbabwe’s woes have triggered an increase in Zambia’s arrivals which last April increase by about 10%. Tourists now visit the Livingstone town of Zambia to view the falls.

Although more than 10 000 companies exhibited at the Indaba, the focus was largely on the marketing gimmicks of the two countries which were fiercely claiming better stakes in the Victoria Falls in their marketing campaigns.

The Zambian exhibitors were marketing the resort under the theme “Zambia the home of Victoria Falls”, arguing that Livingstone, their resort town, offered better services for tourists wishing to see the falls.

Zimbabwe had a counter-campaign under the theme “Go to Victoria Falls.com”.

The Zimbabwe delegation was led by the Zimbabwe Tourism Authority chief executive Karikoga Kaseke.

The tourism sector was represented at the exhibition by hoteliers, tour operators and travel agencies.

As part of the marketing campaign, the Zimbabwe team this week held cocktail parties to convince reluctant tour operators that Zimbabwe was still a safe destination, with enough fuel supplies and security.

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