To The Victoria Falls
Development of the Victoria Falls
The following text is adapted from 'Footsteps Through Time - A History of Travel and Tourism to the Victoria Falls', researched and written by Peter Roberts and due for publication in early 2017. Please visit the Zambezi Book Company website for more information.
In the Spotlight
In mid 2005 the Zimbabwe government launched the notorious Operation Murambatsvina (‘Clear out the Rubbish’), also known as Operation Restore Order, forcibly clearing informally developed urban areas in major cities and towns, including Chinotimba, the African suburb at the Victoria Falls (Sokwanele, 2005).
Justified by officials as a legitimate operation to crackdown against illegal housing and an effort to control crime and the spread of infectious diseases, the areas targeted were incidentally also strongholds of political opposition against the regime in recent elections. Homes were bulldozed and burned without notice as whole suburbs were raised to the ground. The United Nations estimated some 700,000 people were displaced from their homes nationwide.
International arrivals to Zimbabwe fell to 1,854,500 in 2004 and 1,558,500 in 2005.Visitors to the Victoria Falls Rainforest totalled 161,834 in 2005 and 134,010 in 2006. By 2006 average hotel occupancy on the Zimbabwean side of the Victoria Falls had declined to around 30 percent.
Meanwhile the Zambian side of the river was operating at peak-season near-capacity, fuelling an increased growth in infrastructure development on the north bank. In 2004 visitors exploring the Zambian side of the Victoria Falls stood at 72,002. Political and economic uncertainty south of the river resulted in this figure jumping to 179,786 in 2005 (Zambian Ministry of Tourism and Arts, 2014).
In 2004 the Zambian National Tourism Board (ZNTB) experimented with floodlighting of the Eastern Cataract, utilising lights which had been controversially installed in 1989. The development was short-lived, with the Environment Council of Zambia instructing the ZNTB to remove the installations.
Come to Victoria Falls
In an effort to bypass negative perceptions of the country, tourism providers in
Victoria Falls launched a campaign to directly market the destination, credited in creating stronger arrival figures for 2006 and 2007.
“The improvement in output growth and receipts in the two years was a result of the tourism and hospitality sector efforts to manage the country’s damaged image through a perception management campaign which was rolled out in overseas markets. A Tourism and Image Building Task Force team was set up and tasked with the responsibility of mitigating the challenges in the sector and repositioning the country as ‘Africa’s Paradise.’ Led by the then Minister of Information and Publicity, the ‘Come to Victoria Falls’ campaign was rolled out. However, the political instability in the country and the elections of 2008 resulted in the deterioration of the sector in the year, overpowering the image-building efforts that had been implemented in the previous two years.” (Mugwati, Nkala and Mashiri, 2016)
International arrivals to Zimbabwe recovered to highs of 2,286,500 in 2006 and 2,506,000 in 2007.
In 2006, average hotel occupancy on the Zimbabwean side of the Victoria Falls declined to around 30 per cent, while the Zambian side was operating at peak-season near-capacity, fuelling a rapid growth in infrastructure development on the north bank.
In October 2006 it was announced that the Zambian Wildife Authority (ZAWA) had awarded a concession to South Africa’s Legacy Group Holdings for a major new tourism development within the World Heritage Site. The announcement stimulated a UNESCO monitoring mission to investigate the proposed development.
The US$200 million Mosi-oa-Tunya Hotel and Country Club Estate Project planned to develop a tourist resort on a virgin 550 acre river-side site in the National Park. The resort plans including two five-star hotels, an 18-hole golf course, a conference centre and a marina on the Zambezi River a short distance above the Victoria Falls.
After widespread negative reaction to the proposals, Zambia abandoned the project in December 2006, due to concerns of negative impact on the property, together with a proposal for a highflier tethered balloon in the north-east of the World Heritage Site (three kilometres from the Falls).
A moratorium on development within the WHS was subsequently imposed, pending implementation of the joint management plan for the site. The moratorium was lifted in 2008.
Kavango-Zambezi Transfrontier Conservation Area
The Kavango-Zambezi Transfrontier Conservation Area (KAZA TFCA) tourism project is a cooperative effort among five countries—Angola, Botswana, Namibia, Zambia, and Zimbabwe. The KAZA TFCA in southern central Africa covers an area of 400,000 km2 . The Victoria Falls is a central point in the TFCA near the meeting point of four of the five participating countries.
This expansive park is the world’s largest transfrontier conservation area at approximately 520,000 square kilometres, a size rivalling that of France. Occupying the Okavango and Zambezi river basins, it encompasses areas within the borders of Angola, Botswana, Namibia, Zambia and Zimbabwe, and includes 36 formally proclaimed national parks and a host of game reserves, forest reserves, game management areas, and conservation and tourism concession areas designated for use of natural resources.
The KAZA TFCA supports the largest contiguous population of African elephant (Loxodonta africana), with more than 120,000 elephants recorded in aerial surveys (2005–2006) from the Okavango/Chobe region, over 50,000 elephants in north-western Zimbabwe and 16,000 in north-eastern Namibia (Chase 2006).
The park was declared in 2006, through the signing of an MOU between the five participating countries, followed by the signing of a treaty in 2011, through which the park was formally and legally established.
The mission of the participating countries is:
“to establish a world-class transfrontier conservation area and tourism destination in the Okavango and Zambezi river basin regions of Angola, Botswana, Namibia, Zambia and Zimbabwe within the context of sustainable development” (KAZA TFCA, December 2006).
A 2005 survey of tourism accommodation provision in the KAZA region estimated a bed-night capacity of 8,312. Of the available accommodation capacity, 35 per cent was in Livingstone, 32 per cent in Victoria Falls, 17 in northern Botswana, 12 per cent in Caprivi and just four per cent along the Upper Zambezi.
“It is estimated that just over 318,640 guests spent one or more nights in the accommodation enterprises, and 782,200 bednights were sold in the region. Livingstone made 39 per cent of total KAZA TFCA sales, Victoria Falls made 25 per cent, northern Botswana [Chobe] made 23 per cent., Caprivi sold nine per cent of total bednights and establishments along the Upper Zambezi sold the remaining four per cent.” (Suich, Busch and Barbancho, 2005)