Zimbabwe and the 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 the country’s tourism industry that has suffered a sharp decline in visitors due to the devastating Covid-19 pandemic.

The initiative, dubbed the “Victoria Falls Area Tourism Development Plan”, is part of the multi-year Zimbabwe Destination Development Programme (ZDDP), an advisory programme launched in January and sponsored by the Ministry of Environment, Climate Change, Tourism and Hospitality Industry; the Ministry of Transport and Infrastructural Development and the IFC, to support the recovery of the local tourism sector.

The plan will establish a roadmap to realise the growth potential of Victoria Falls and the wider area, including Masuwe, in a feasible, phased, and sustainable way.

It 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 due to Covid-19 have collapsed global tourism, forcing businesses to retrench nearly 30 percent of tourism employees in the Victoria Falls area in recent months.

Permanent Secretary for Tourism, Mr Munesushe 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 programme will support concrete goal setting and recommendations for achieving those goals over the next five years.

It will be approved by Government and informs future development of the tourism sector in the Victoria Falls area.

Freedthinkers, a destination development firm, will lead the development plan process.

The company’s CEO, Mr 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 re-purposing of diamond-mining town Oranjemund in Namibia, among others.

The launch of the revival plan comes a few days after a US travel and tourism agency, Tourlane, ranked Zimbabwe as the safest place to visit in the world when countries reopen borders for international travel after Covid-19 restrictions.

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