THE recent announcement by the tourism minister Walter Mzembi that Zimbabwe is planning to develop a theme park in Victoria Fall is a step in the right direction. In an era where global tourism development is not reliant on one aspect, the move to develop a theme park was long overdue.
Tourism experts would agree that there is always a primary and secondary attraction that attracts tourists to a place. The primary attraction and the secondary attraction complement each other.
Contrary to what is being said by some sections of society the addition of a theme park will go a long way in fostering tourism development in the country albeit policy reforms that are urgently needed so as to address price distortions with our regional competitors Such as South Africa and Botswana in SADC , Kenya and Egypt afar off.
The introduction of a theme park in Victoria Falls will benefit the country in the long run and the cost benefit is huge. The use of environmental debate is both shallow and tired. One would expect that a proper Environmental Impact Assessment would be conducted so as to address the environmental aspects of the project. A good Environmental Management Plan is surely mandatory as Victoria Falls is a World Heritage Site.
That aside the introduction of a theme park and casino in Victoria Falls will positively impact on tourism development as it will ensure that tourists spend more money at the resort. The benefactors will not only be the theme park owners or shareholders. An increase in the number of activities in Victoria Falls will ensure that tourists stay longer at the resort town to experience all the activities in the area. This will result in longer stays and consequently increasing the average hotel occupancy rate in the area.
Local people stand to benefit due to the increased spend in Victoria Falls as this means more tax revenue and increased GDP. The locals won’t be left behind as these new activities will surely translate into employment opportunities and entrepreneurship opportunities. One does not understand how this is a negative development.
The shopping malls are a step in the right direction as most tourist want to have shopping on their itineraries. South Africa’s major attractions are located near shopping malls as most tourist pack light. One of the major reasons for travelling to South Africa by many Africans for example is purely for the shopping experience, add night life to it and then you have your recipe for a satisfied tourist experience.Advertisement
However there is need for the incoming tourism minister to address the price distortions at Victoria Falls as they hamper tourist arrivals to the country. Zimbabwe is currently the most expensive destination in the region due to the fact that all its tourism packages are pegged in hard currency, making costs four times higher than our regional competitors. This reduces its competitiveness with other regional partners. Naturally people will go where they get more for a dollar like in South Africa.
One doesn’t really understand why this is the scenario. Most products or services cost three or four times what they cost in South Africa for example. With the Rand on a slippery path, more tourists will be flocking to South Africa as it becomes cheaper to do so. This needs urgent attention to increase the number of visitors to Zimbabwe which declined in the previous years.
The country also urgently needs to address the issue of infrastructure which is in a bad state. Improve border movement and efficiency to allow regional access to regional tourists. The current status quo in Victoria Falls where tourists fly in and out of Vitoria Falls in one day translates to enclave tourism and it’s unsustainable.
Kaitano Dube is PhD Candidate focussing on the Impact of Climate Change on Tourism