By Leonard Ncube
Victoria Falls — Australian and United States’ consuls met tour operators in Hwange and Victoria Falls where they reaffirmed their countries’ renewed support for Zimbabwe as a safe destination.
The US leads the arrivals pack in Victoria Falls and Hwange, commanding 35 percent while Australia is third after Japan.
Australia and US have an influence on other countries’ travellers as they have the world’s travel agents who literally control tourism.
The Australian Embassy was represented by Ms Cathy Jenkins while the US was represented by Ms Amy Diaz in a meeting, which recently discussed a number of issues including security, health and fuel shortages.
Coming out of the closed-door meeting in Victoria Falls, tour operator representatives said the consular officials had given Victoria Falls and Hwange destinations clean bills, adding that the destination had not succumbed to cholera, which is currently affecting some parts of the country.
“We are happy to meet the consuls with whom we have had collaboration for many years as this reaffirms commitment to support our tourism and keep abreast with what is happening,” said Ms Yvonne Jandles, representing operators.
She said information about what was happening on the ground was crucial as opposed to social media reports that discredit destination. Victoria Falls has experienced more arrivals this year.
“They met operators in Hwange as well and have given a commitment that they are very confident because of what’s been happening in Victoria Falls. The destination is booming at the moment as we are at our peak and it looks like it will continue, said Ms Jandles.
She said one of the major issues coming out was limited capacity owing to room shortage in the country’s prime resort town where tourism players sometimes turn away clients because they will be full to capacity.
“We have come to a time when we start turning away business. It is a good problem to have but we would like to be able to welcome people because once you keep turning them away they will find other destinations and not come back, said Ms Jandles.
She said continued engagement reassures tourists, adding that so far there were cancellations as a result of cholera outbreak. “We are trying to engage other embassies as well through them. The important thing now is the cholera outbreak and once things like that get into the press we get a lot of cancellations. We have just come out of elections and in the past this would have meant loss of business because people are scared to travel but we are glad that so far we haven’t recorded cancellations,” she said.
“Agents keep checking on Victoria Falls and we are glad to announce that there is no cholera and these embassies are key to us because they clear or issue travel warnings that discourage tourists from travelling.”
Tourism Business Council of Zimbabwe regional representative Mrs Barbara Murasiranwa said meeting the two embassies put a seal that Zimbabwe is a safe destination.
“This is encouraging as they will add us to their itineraries even if they are not coming to Zimbabwe. We want them to collaborate and send out word that Zimbabwe is a safe destination and encourage their citizens to visit,” he said.