Oliver Kazunga, Bulawayo Bureau
VICTORIA Falls Rainforest continues to record an increase in the number of people visiting the tourist attraction as 357 552 people visited the world heritage site last year compared to 338 472 in 2018.
The latest figures from the Zimbabwe Parks and Wild Life Management Authority (Zimparks) reflect a 5,6 percentage increase.
Speaking by telephone from Harare yesterday, Zimparks public relations manager Tinashe Farawo said although the number of visitors to the rainforest continue to rise, they were concerned that local visitors’ figures were still low.
“Although the figures are on an upward trajectory -the only concern- something which I think is being done, is to encourage the locals (domestic tourists) to visit the heritage site.
At present not many locals are visiting the rainforest as well as other sites, maybe it’s because the locals don’t have much disposable income to spend,” he said.
Mr Farawo said the improvement in the number of visitors to the Victoria Falls Rainforest was largely due to aggressive marketing efforts by Zimparks as well as renewed confidence in the destination.
As part of efforts to lure more domestic visitors to the parks across the country, Mr Farawo said the organisation was offering relatively lower rates to promote affordability to the locals.
Recently, confusion gripped the travel and tourism industry locally and abroad following a BBC report purporting that the Victoria Falls was drying up.
The report sparked widespread debate as sceptical opinion leaders and some tour operators turned political and sought to manipulate the scenario in a bid to project a bad image about the country.
This was despite insights by climate change experts and explanations from tourism industry stakeholders whose businesses stand to be negatively affected by the biased reports.
The tourism sector is one of Zimbabwe’s major economic mainstays contributing significantly to the Gross Domestic Product through foreign currency generation and employment creation.
While 2019 tourist arrivals statistics were not yet available from the Zimbabwe Tourism Authority, about 2,6 million international tourist visited the country in 2018 compared to 2,4 million the previous year.
They spent US$1,050 in 2018, which was seven percent higher than US$917 million generated in 2017. United Kingdom, United States of America, and South Africa are some of Zimbabwe’s major source markets.