Vic Falls Carnival has for years been a major draw card for visitors to the resort town of Victoria Falls.
The growth of this annual fete has also been a blessing to the tourism industry, especially in the resort town of Victoria Falls, which plays host to the event.
With the just ended edition attracting record breaking numbers, stakeholders in the tourism industry, from tour operators to hoteliers, were smiling all the way to the bank after brisk business.
Hotels and lodges were overwhelmed by the multitudes that came for the carnival, which saw other visitors resorting to renting private homes and setting up tents at various campsites.
Hotels Association of Zimbabwe highlighted that hotel occupancy during the festive season in Victoria Falls rose to 92 percent as opposed to last year’s 85 percent with the iflix Vic Falls Carnival being a major contributing factor.
In a town that has eight hotels and 45 lodges with a combined capacity of about 3 800, it is no surprise that these places were packed considering that over 5 000 people had bought tickets for the carnival, aside from the fact that there were also other tourists who had not come for the event.
Speaking to The Sunday Mail Society, Rest Camp general manager Olga Mutamba said they are always busy during the carnival period.
“During the carnival period we are always filled to capacity and this year was no different as we managed to fill up all our rooms and camping spaces. With the growing popularity of the festival, people are now booking early and for the days between December 29 and January 1, we were fully booked by September.
“We even have people who have already booked accommodation for these dates in preparation for the 2018 edition, which means we might even be full earlier this time around,” said Mutamba.
Besides those offering accommodation, tour operators offering various adventures also had a good day at the office with many curious visitors trying out some of them.
Gary Archer from Wild Horizons, which is one of the major tour operators in Victoria Falls, said they were also very busy during this period.
“Business was great because we had more people than we normally have coming through to book for the adventures that we have on offer. For example, we normally have 15 people per day who book for rafting but during the carnival period we were having an average of 80 people rafting,” said Archer, adding, “Boat cruises are more popular and while we usually have 150 people on a good day, this time around over 200 people were going on these cruises every day.”
Besides the carnival factor, he also attributed the rise in visitors to Victoria Falls to the new airport, which has enabled an increase in traffic to the town.
“While the carnival has been a major factor in the boom in business, I also think the new airport has also contributed significantly to the increase in tourists visiting this place because you will realise that it was not everyone who was coming for the carnival but also other tourists just visiting the place,” Archer explained.
Leisure spots around the town were also very busy with people looking for places to continue partying after leaving the main carnival event.
Club Nitrus, located right in the heart of the town, was one of the drinking holes that was always packed to capacity during the fete and its owner Kuda Mataga said they had received their biggest numbers during the three days.
“We had to take the party outside and do street bashes because the club could not accommodate the large numbers that were coming through during the carnival,” said Mataga.
He added: “Business was really good because on top of our usual customers, we would then have people who would have been at the carnival also coming to party the night away at the joint.”
This reporter also spoke to several visitors, both local and international, who shared their views about Victoria Falls, what encouraged them to visit the town and how they had travelled.
While a sizeable number flew to the carnival, many locals and those from neighboring countries came by road, with most of them hiring buses and travelling in groups.
Mamie Radilwana from Botswana said they travelled to Victoria Falls as a group of 13 friends but because of the accommodation crisis, they ended up booking different places around the town.
“The carnival has become a very popular event. Every travel agent in Botswana is now offering packages for the event which could be the reason why there were so many of us this year,” said Radilwana.
“This event brings together a lot of people from various parts of the world so for me it was really great as I got to make new friends not only from my country but from other parts of the globe.”
Domestic tourism during the whole festive season is said to have taken a dive form last year’s 15 percent to 10 percent due to the current economic crisis. However, the carnival was a shot in the arm for domestic tourism with more locals becoming interested in the event.
Last year, the Party Bus organised to ferry people from Harare to Vic Falls only managed to attract 18 people but this time around they had a full house with 44 people coming through while others had to seek alternative transport after being turned away.
The stretch from Bulawayo to Victoria Falls was also very busy with most of the travellers who were in either private cars or hired kombis pointing out that they were going to the carnival.
A visitor from Harare, Simbarashe Mazhonera, said he would be inviting more friends to come back next year so that they not only experience the carnival atmosphere, but also see the beauty that is Victoria Falls.
“Many people in Zimbabwe think that the ultimate holiday experience is visiting places like Durban and Cape Town in South Africa, but what they are missing is that we have beautiful places here that are worth visiting.
“Next time I am going to encourage more of my friends to also come and feel the carnival experience and take part in some of the adventures that are available this side because to me this is the best holiday I have ever had,” said Mazhonera.
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