NewsSouthern AfricaZambia - Zimbabwe: Countdown at Victoria Falls


Posted on Monday, 19 August 2013 11:07

Zambia - Zimbabwe: Countdown at Victoria Falls

By Thandiwe Ngoma in Livingstone

Photo© the divide of the world's largest waterfull, Livingstone and Victoria Falls town are making good for their joint hosting of the UNWTO congress.


As the might of Mosi-oa-Tunya – the smoke that thunders – roars beneath you, a short walk across the Victoria Falls bridge takes you across the border from Zambia into Zimbabwe.

For years, the town of Victoria Falls on the Zimbabwe side was the big brother to Livingstone in Zambia, and the destination of choice to visit the waterfall on the Zambezi River.

We cannot rest when Africa is managing only 5 percent to 6 percent of the world tourism

Political instability in Zimbabwe has led to a boom for Livingstone as visitors have chosen it as their base to enjoy the sights and activities of the region such as whitewater rafting and bungee jumping.

Now the towns are putting their rivalry aside as they co-host the 20th biennial United Nations World Tourism Organisation (UNWTO) general assembly from 24 to 29 August.

As the Zambian and Zimbabwean governments work to attract delegates, the victors in this friendly competition could be the poorer residents of both towns as local authorities have implemented much-needed development projects ahead of the gathering.

Lasting Improvements

As a gesture of goodwill rarely seen else- where at conference time, hotel room rates have been reduced by as much as $100 during the congress.

The two countries have also organised several musical and cultural festivals to run side-by-side with the general assembly.

Both governments have spent millions of dollars on infrastructure developments such as road resurfacing and improving transport.

In Zambia, tourism and arts minister Sylvia Masebo had to use her diplomatic skills to deal with the increase in street vendors who choked the main streets of Livingstone.

The government moved the street vendors off the main street in preparation for the construction of a new market in late 2012.

The government demolished the Zimbabwe Market in Livingstone in December 2012 to pave way for a modern curio market costing more than $5m to build, as the old market in the heart of the city had become an eyesore and was unsanitary.

The city's roads have also since been resurfaced, while Livingstone airport has a new international arrivals terminal due for completion in July.

The situation is similar in Zimbabwe, where the government has spent $16m on infrastructure.

The assembly will open in Zimbabwe and the Zambian side will host the closing ceremony in a marquee.

Walter Mzembi, Zimbabwe's tourism minister, describes the event as a wedding for Zambia's Livingstone and Zimbabwe's Victoria Falls town.

In Zimbabwe, almost all hotels and lodges have had a facelift and some have rebranded.

As in Livingstone, the authorities in Victoria Falls are rehabilitating its water and electricity supplies.

Tourism is an important sector in the global economy.

It employs one out of 12 people in the world, representing 9 percent of the world's gross domestic product, but tourism in Africa has suffered from the recession in Europe and the USA as well as security fears.

"Africa is still to occupy its proper place under the sun," said Taleb Rifai, secretary-general of the UNWTO.

"We cannot rest when Africa is managing only 5 percent to 6 percent of the world tourism."

Zambia's President Michael Sata has stressed that the success of the general assembly depends on the collective efforts of the two countries.

"I urge Livingstone residents from all walks of life to get involved in the preparations for the successful hosting of the UNWTO general assembly," said Sata.

"The more local people are involved, the more successful the event will be." ●

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