Governments are frequently criticised by the travel industry for introducing policies that impede tourism growth, so when they get it right they should be congratulated.
The new uni-visa, jointly introduced by Zimbabwe and Zambia, is such a development. It fundamentally changes how we in the travel trade can sell Victoria Falls to offer the best possible experience and value to visitors.
Traditionally this destination has been generally a matter of making a choice between the Zambian option and the Zimbabwe option. Due to complicated and expensive visa requirements, border delays and time pressures, this has meant that most international visitors tend to opt for one side or the other.
Despite the wonderful variety of wildlife and adventure activities that exist in both these countries, the main reason people visit the destination is to experience the magnificence of the Victoria Falls.
However, anyone who does not view the Falls from the Zimbabwe side during the drier months simply misses out on the glory of the Falls experience and anyone who doesn’t see the Falls from the Zambian side in the wetter months – or doesn’t participate in a Livingstone island trip and swim in the Devil’s Pool – is being denied a lifetime experience.
The uni-visa certainly opens new opportunities for a finer tourist encounter with one of the natural wonders of the world, but it also presents some further challenges to the stakeholders.
To the governments of Zimbabwe and Zambia: well done for recognising the need for this development, but now please go a step further and introduce a uni-parks entrance fee that allows seamless, hassle-free entry to both sides of the Falls.
To the ground-handlers: you need to introduce easy scenic packages that tie both sides of the Falls together, while ensuring the extended journey offers a cool, fun and stress-free crossing, leaving visitors comfortable and suitably refreshed to enjoy the entire visual experience. What visitors don’t need is to feel hot, bothered, fatigued and harassed by border delays and random vendors.
To the tour operators and agents: we need to change the traditional programme and encourage our clients to experience the Falls from both sides, offering greater value for these customers on the scenic, safari and adventure activities, and dining alternatives that the uni-visa now facilitates.
For our clients, it’s all about the experience, whether they choose cheap and cheerful accommodation or expensive and luxurious habitation. The challenge is to get your customers out of the hotels and into the plethora of scenic, wildlife and cultural encounters that the golden triangle (Victoria Falls, Livingstone and Kasane/Chobe) has to offer.
It is these experiences that customers cherish and remember, and their enthusiasm will garner further clients even more effectively than the glossiest of printed brochures!
What do you think about Linda Pampallis’s suggestion of a uni-parks entrance fee to allow tourists seamless entry to both sides of the Falls? Share your thoughts in the comments section below.