Tourism thrives amid comatose economy in Zimbabwe

Tourism thrives amid comatose economy in Zimbabwe

By Jeffery Moyo

VICTORIA FALLS, Zimbabwe (AA) — At The Boma, developed more than three decades ago in Zimbabwe’s Victoria Falls, Panashe Gotora made several trips from his table to the buffet, fetching one plate of food after the other — from crocodile and Kudu meat to beef and chicken as he enjoyed the cornmeal prepared at the bush spot.

The Boma was developed to cater for guests staying at lodges located near the Victoria Falls Central Business District.

Now, several local tourists like 23-year-old Panashe, who have managed to blend with international visitors to this place, have become a sensation almost every year.

Zimbabwe’s local authorities have also made it possible for locals to enjoy the tourist attractions, and figures like the new Victoria Falls Mayor, Prince Thuso Moyo, support this effort.

“We are promoting local tourism; companies here have agreed to have prices that accommodate locals. For instance, it’s $7 to see the falls for each local tourist, while there are restaurants affordable for locals, and many local tourists are already visiting them. As a local authority, we will continue promoting local tourism,” Moyo told Anadolu.

In fact, as many Zimbabweans like Panashe begin to embrace visiting local tourism places, tourism in itself has thrived here amid a comatose national economy, as both local and international tourists breathe life into the sector that went into a recession during the coronavirus period.

Yet through his own savings, Panashe, who said he is not formally employed but relies on income from his roadside business repairing cellphones in the capital Harare, has come to Victoria Falls for a short vacation, almost 1,000 kilometers (about 621 miles) from his home.

“Saving is what I have done. Things are tough in the country. This is my second time coming to visit here on my own account. Saving and doing my own meticulous budgets have made this possible. I’m happy,” Panashe told Anadolu.

For him, the onus rests with the locals whether or not to enjoy their own tourism.

“As Zimbabweans, it’s important that we should be our own visitors at local tourist places, and anyone can do it depending on our priorities,” Panashe said.


– Coronavirus effect

According to statistics from the Zimbabwe Tourism Authority, 1 million tourists visited the Southern African nation in 2022 as it emerged from the effects of a lengthy coronavirus lockdown.

In the first six months of this year, the agency counted 595,000 tourists who visited places of interest across Zimbabwe.

Among these were local tourists like Panashe, who, despite the economic hardships, have made it a point to enjoy his country as a local tourist.

But Zimbabwe grapples with 90% unemployment, with many, like Panashe, surviving through informal economic activities.

The sight of tourist attractions being filled solely with foreigners has fast become a thing of the past in Zimbabwe, as even authorities acknowledge that locals have also become common guests at such places.

“What’s causing the rising local tourism is the coronavirus, which pushed us to have a strategy in which we teach locals about things of interest in the country, drawing many people to value local tourism,” Godfrey Koti, the ZTA spokesperson, told Anadolu.

“We saw it fit to develop a strategy called the National Tourism Recovery and Growth Strategy, in which we have taken it upon ourselves to educate locals about the places of interest that they may visit in the country,” Koti said.

As a result, he explained, Zimbabweans made a total of 12.8 million trips to places of interest in the country last year.

The boom has continued some in the first half of this year, when Koti said that so far, there were 4.4 million local tourist visits.

Some hoteliers have attributed the dynamism to Zimbabweans visiting from overseas, a case suggested by Matifadza Nyazema, who is the CEO for Mbano Hotel in Victoria Falls.

“Some have children and relatives abroad who send money to them here. Many come with their relatives from overseas, while some phone from overseas where they live, booking for others to enjoy being at luxury hotels,” Nyazema said.

Even social media platforms show the influx of local tourists.

Wengayi Nhau, who is the president of the Tourism Business Council of Zimbabwe, echoes Koti’s sentiments.

“People are now frequenting tourist places because they have drawn lessons from the COVID-19 restrictions. People learned the importance of travel after they were detained by coronavirus for longer, and they now see how important it is to see good places while they are still free,” Nhau said.

At Victoria Falls’ Palm River Hotel, Themba Ncube, who is the deputy general manager there, said: “I’m sure even if you check our Facebook page, you would realize we have many local tourists now coming here.”

“People are now visiting as families often, some coming from Gweru, Masvingo, and other cities in the country to vacation in luxury here and across other hotels around here while enjoying the Victoria Falls,” Ncube told Anadolu.

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