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Non-tourism businesses start to re-open in Victoria Falls

by Staff reporter
18 May 2020 at 07:25hrs | Views
VICTORIA Falls is slowly coming back to life as some businesses reopen but tourism, the town's mainstay, remains the missing link.

A snap survey around town showed that shops, construction sites, bookshops, banks and some offices are now open, joining essential service providers such as supermarkets that had remained open since the start of lockdown on March 30.

The Victoria Falls Municipality (VFM) offices are also now fully open. Tour operators and hotels remain closed but have small teams working three days a week to do maintenance and cleaning duties while the rest of workers have been sent home.

VFM Town Clerk Mr Ronnie Dube yesterday acknowledged an increase in human activity around town due to reopening of businesses.

"Things are slowly returning to normalcy but with a lot of care as many are scared of the virus. It's important that we look at the possibility of slowly opening our tourism. If Zambia could re-open its tourism just across the river in Livingstone, they might beat us on competition and things will be difficult for us," said Mr Dube.

Zambian President Edgar Lungu recently ordered reopening of tourism activities in Livingstone, a town that directly competes with Victoria Falls in terms of arrivals and activities. However, Hospitality Association of Zimbabwe (HAZ) Victoria Falls chapter chairman Mr Anald Musonza feels it's not yet time to re-open the industry as this could expose the country to new infections.

He said rushing might be irresponsible and fatal. "Our main source markets are still locked down hence I see no reason to rush before we put in place proper measures for safety. Social distancing is not easy in tourism because every activity requires guides and close contact. If you look at Zambia, they may have reopened tourism but Covid-19 cases are rising," said Mr Musonza.

"We cannot afford to make a mistake with Covid-19 by opening ourselves to new infections. That might totally shut the industry. We are not ready and it's not yet the right time to open. We are not worried about competition from Zambia because 90 percent of tourists who fly there come to Victoria Falls."

He said the best option will be localised opening of tourism where locals can be allowed to visit the Rainforest, game parks and other activities under strict lockdown rules.

This he said will help stir domestic tourism and also work as a yardstick to measure the impact of gradual opening of the industry The water level on the Zambezi River is now dropping, as is the norm at this time of the year, meaning business loss for the industry, Rafting Association of Zimbabwe chairman Mr Skinner Ndlovu said yesterday.

"Water level has started dropping according to our daily checks on the river," said Mr Ndlovu. He said all rafting bookings for 2020 had been cancelled and some clients were rebooking for next year, leaving the industry at a loss. Rafting usually closes at the end of March due to high water and reopens during the last week of May when water would have subsided to manageable levels.

In March, the Zambezi River Authority reported that water in the river had risen to the highest level in 13 years upstream from Victoria Falls, with more than 4 000 cubic metres falling down the world's seventh natural wonder per second up from an average of 663 cubic metres per second flow rate in February. The sound of the world's largest sheet of falling water is deafening, especially at night. It can be heard as far as the Victoria Falls Airport about 20km away while the rainbow and mist can also be spotted from a distance.

Source - chronicle