Tourist arrivals to Victoria Falls, Zimbabwe, increased by 11% in 2017, with international arrivals sharply rising, with the UK showing the most notable growth.

The international border tourist arrivals are distorted by cross-border movements by the same tourist on multi-country visits, day trips to Victoria Falls from Chobe/Kasane, and day trips to Chobe National Park from Victoria Falls and Livingstone. Therefore, the total number of actual international tourists is thought to be between 355 000 and 390 000 in 2017. The estimate has been arrived at by counterbalancing hotel and accommodation stays as well as entries to the Victoria Falls rainforest with tourist arrivals at borders, according to Africa Albida Tourism (AAT) who sponsored and conducted the survey.

The UK led the pack in 2017, doubling in arrivals, with 12 765 recorded in 2017 compared with 5 073 in 2016.

According to AAT’s report, the upsurge in UK arrivals in 2017 is likely to be just the beginning of significant volume increases.

Ross Kennedy, AAT Chief Executive elaborates: "The UK market was our largest source market until 2001. There is a long history, connection and bond between our two countries, but this was severely damaged by events between 2000 and 2015.

“In the last two years, the UK market has responded to many positive changes in Zimbabwe, as well as recognising and, indeed, remembering, that we have an incredible tourism destination to offer in Zimbabwe.”

According to Kennedy, the FIT market and group series market has once again fully engaged with the region’s tourism industry, and is selling an increased amount of the entire product and experience available in Zimbabwe.

The 2017 growth over 2016 has further increased in 2018 year-to-date versus 2017, a trend that should continue, explains Kennedy.  “The new Victoria Falls International Airport with its geographical hub location, plus much enhanced regional route access and connectivity have also played a part in the growth.”

Other key source markets that showed good growth include:

  • USA: 73 803 in 2017 compared with 63 502 in 2016.
  • Germany: 25 855 in 2017; 21 288 in 2016.
  • Australia: 17 023 in 2017; 13 383 in 2016.
  • France: 16 092 in 2017; 11 244 in 2016.
  • Japan: 31 702 in 2017; 19 718 in 2016.
  • Italy: 9 275 in 2017; 7 666 in 2016.
  • Switzerland: 5 749 in 2017; 5 747 in 2016.
  • Canada: 5 747 in 2017; 1 198 in 2016.
  • India: 2 079 in 2017; 1 308 in 2016.
  • China: 5 359 in 2017; 1 712 in 2016.

Right: Rise in Vic Falls Rainforest visitor entries – Zim side only.  Left: Total arrivals.

Tourism visits to the Victoria Falls Rainforest (Zimbabwe side only) rose sharply, adding 36% in two years. Local and regional arrivals were flat, mainly caused by excessive police roadblock activity on highways, which has now ended. This masked a meaningful rise in foreign tourist visits to the Falls of 50% over the two-year period.

Hotel room stays increased by 20% over this period, indicating a substantial increase d use of alternative accommodation options on the Victoria Falls (Zimbabwe) side of the river.

There was a further sharp increase in visitor numbers to the Zimbabwe side of the rainforest in 2018 of 26%, however foreign visitor number growth rose 28% vs. local 15%.

Left: Hotel room stays in Victoria Falls (Zimbabwe only). Right: Total Zimbabwe side hotel room stays –First six months 2018.

Hotel accommodation stays grew less than rainforest visits at 12.5% in 2018 for the first six months, again reflecting a boom in non-hotel stays on the Zimbabwe side.

Occupancies were approximately 54% for 2017 for the area, reflecting substantial room capacity availability still for the short term.

According to the report, strategic opportunities include: a convention centre, which would benefit the area and assist airlines with volumes and business-class passengers; room for large volume activities to extend stays;  wide range of opportunities exist for the Meetings, Incentives, Conferences and Events (MICE) markets; less than 10% of area arrivals are children, therefore there is potential for family activities; Special Economic Zone (SEZ) investment incentives are being offered in Victoria Falls, and other investment initiatives in Livingstone and Chobe; as well as lower priced activities.