Residents express mixed feelings over tourism indaba

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RESIDENTS and the business community in the resort town of Victoria Falls have expressed mixed reactions towards the impact of the United Nations World Tourism Organisation (UNWTO) general assembly as the tourism indaba moved to Zambia yesterday.

REPORT BY OBEY MANAYITI/MELISSA MPOFU in VICTORIA FALLS

To some, there was brisk business, while others remained hopeful for a change in fortunes.

Residents said they were excited that the 20th session of the UNWTO general assembly was the best attended ever in the history of the tourism convention.

“It just feels good that we are rated the best. We need to congratulate ourselves for that and the general peaceful atmosphere that is prevailing in Victoria Falls,” said Mehluli Dube.

A senior manager at a local helicopter company, Morgan Dube, said nothing had changed in terms of business.

“I think there has been a major impact generally. However, for us we haven’t seen much of business because the delegates are still tied up with their busy schedule,” Dube said.

“Hopefully, some delegates will come after the conference when they are not busy. The clients we are having are the pre-booked ones.”

Most hotels in Victoria Falls were reserved for foreign delegates and as such, locals had to find alternative accommodation in lodges and different approved houses.

“Well, business is doing fine,” said Pieter Burger Herbst, a senior manager at Livingstone Lodge.

“From the year 2000 onwards, the tourism business was going down but with the inception of the GNU (Government of National Unity), there was an influx of tourists because they had some confidence in the new government.”

Masimba Matyatya, an artiste who travelled from Beitbridge with his Wedande and Dandemutande band, said he was excited by the cultural exchange.

“As artistes, we are benefiting in terms of cultural exchanges. We are also buying and learning to play some instruments we are seeing from other artistes who came to grace this conference,” Matyatya said.

“From an economic point of view, our CDs and clothing ware have been bought by people from Japan, Australia and New Zealand. This will definitely help us to spread our wings far. The co-hosting helped us too to go further afield in Zambia and mix and mingle with artistes there.”

Peter Mtetwa of Impressions of Southern Africa, however, expressed hope business would improve.

While others like hoteliers and food providers are benefitting immensely from the ongoing general assembly, taxi operators are crying foul.

Government engaged the services of the Central Mechanical and Engineering Department (CMED) to provide all the transport for the general assembly.

A cab driver who spoke to NewsDay on condition of anonymity said: “We hoped the UNWTO general assembly would empower the locals, but that’s not the case as we don’t seem to be benefiting much from this mega event. For example, a trip to the conference centre located at Elephant Hills Hotel from Victoria Falls town costs $10, but unfortunately we are not plying that route that much as there is free transport going there.”

Hotels, night spots and restaurants are benefiting from the event as a result of high demand. Innscor outlets — Chicken Inn, Pizza Inn and Creamy Inn — which are ideally located in the CBD are always packed.

Outlets such as Invuvu Bar, Comfort Catering (Kwa Mai Nhira) and Mai T Eating House have been popular considering the affordable meals they offer.

Most delegates said they had resorted to buying their meals in town because it was cheaper as a plate of a decent meal costs between $2 and $4 as compared to hotels where the meals range from $15 to $20.

Director of Mai T Eating House, Mai T, said the UNWTO general assembly had boosted their business as they were recording a 40-50% rise in profit daily.
“Most of our customers are from Zambia, Ghana, South Africa and Harare,” she said.

Home-owners in the resort town have also been smiling all the way as they have turned their houses into lodges due to the high turnout of delegates for the general assembly.

Three-bedroomed houses have been rented out for $850 for the week-long assembly, while others have been costing between $50 and $100 per head per day.
The UNWTO general assembly ends tomorrow.

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