Tourists from Asia are flocking to Zimbabwe’s Victoria Falls.
One of the most impressive and famous waterfalls in the world, Victoria Falls is located on the Zambezi River between Zimbabwe and Zambia. Discovered in 1855 by explorer David Livingstone, one-mile-wide waterfall was named in honor of Queen Victoria, though by then the locals already knew it as Mosi-oa-Tunya, or “The Smoke that Thunders.” It is also considered a United Nations World Heritage Site.
Today, a Zimbabwean resort named after the falls offers a host of once-in-a-lifetime opportunities for tourists, such as a 111-meter (364-foot) bungee jump off a bridge across the Zambezi River, white-water rafting, helicopter rides over the falls, a crocodile farm, and a game park inhabited by elephants, lions, and other familiar African fauna.
Resorts like these may hold the key to restoring tourism in a country shaped by recent turmoil. According to Bloomberg Businessweek, the local hotels were “filled to capacity” in the 1990s, but occupancy dropped to just 30 percent in 2006. As Zimbabwe faced a political and economic crisis, tourism moved to the Zambian side of the river.
Now, the Zimbabwean government is actively encouraging international tourism, especially from Asian countries. President Robert Mugabe’s recent “Look East” policy is bringing record numbers of travelers from South Korea, Japan, and China to the country. Asian governments area are also taking part in the outreach, according to Walter Mzembi, Zimbabwe’s tourism minister.
“By the end of this year, we should be having tourism attaches in China; two in Shanghai and one in Beijing,” Mzembi said. “It’s not only Chinese, but we are targeting tourists from Asia as a whole as well.”
The Kingdom Hotel in the resort of Victoria Falls is one business that is benefiting from the new initiative. The 294-room African Sun Ltd. property has received a considerable influx of Asian tourists in the past few years, says its manager, Derick Kung.
“The Asians started arriving in 2009,” he says. “The Asian block has picked up…particularly the Japanese, South Koreans have been significant, but guest arrivals from Singapore and Malaysia are also starting to pick up. We thought last year we were busy, but this year is something else, we are more than busy.”
Zimbabwe’s Asian tourists more than doubled between 2000 and 2013 to a total of 52,959 travelers. Last year alone, Victoria Falls received 9,603 visitors from Japan and 10,173 from China. Though tourists from Japan seems to be outnumbering those from China this year, the numbers remain high.
As Chinese travelers become more adventurous in their travel and look for new destinations, we can expect Victoria Falls to gain more Chinese visitors in the years to come.
image credit: wikipedia