The Government of Zimbabwe and International Finance Corporation (IFC), a member of the World Bank Group, yesterday launched an initiative to boost tourism in and around Victoria Falls to help strengthen Zimbabwe’s tourism industry, which has suffered a sharp decline in visitors because of the global COVID-19 pandemic.
The initiative, the ‘Victoria Falls Area Tourism Development Plan’ is part of the multi-year Zimbabwe Destination Development Program (ZDDP), an advisory program launched in January and sponsored by Zimbabwe’s Ministry of Climate, Environment, Tourism & Hospitality, Ministry of Transport and Infrastructure, and IFC to support the recovery of Zimbabwe’s tourism sector.
This plan will establish a road-map to realize the growth potential of Victoria Falls and the wider area, including Masuwe, in a feasible, phased, and sustainable way. The plan will recommend detailed actions in areas such as data collection, marketing and skills development, infrastructure, and viable project investments.
Victoria Falls, one of the world’s largest falls and most spectacular natural sites, is Zimbabwe’s main tourism hub and supports about 25,000 direct jobs. Travel restrictions imposed because of COVID-19 have collapsed global tourism, forcing businesses to retrench nearly 30 percent of tourism employees in the Victoria Falls area in recent months.
Zimbabwe’s Permanent Secretary for Tourism, Munesu Munodawafa, said, “The plan is needed to support the destination’s recovery from the COVID-19 crisis and build longer-term resilience and pathways to growth.”
The program will support concrete goal setting and recommendations for achieving those goals over the next five years. The plan will be approved by the Government of Zimbabwe and inform future development of the tourism sector in the Victoria Falls wider area.
Freedthinkers, a destination development firm, will lead the development plan process. The company’s CEO, Mike Freedman, said, “This is an exciting opportunity for all stakeholders to build a new future for Victoria Falls. We believe in the power of many minds to co-create a generosity of ideas, to balance conservation with development, and to respect and promote a unique sense of place.”
Freedthinkers has also been responsible for the Cape Town City Development Strategy, and the repurposing of diamond-mining town Oranjemund in Namibia, amongst others.