Leonard Ncube, Victoria Falls Reporter

TOURISM players have escalated marketing destination Zimbabwe after Government allowed them free entry into the Rainforest to take footage and market the country’s tourism products.

This comes as Government is engaging stakeholders with a view to open domestic tourism, with private sector participation key to the initiative.

President Mnangagwa last week urged all provinces and exporting companies to set specific trade and export targets so that they contribute more to national earnings.

Matabeleland North’s major revenue earner is tourism and the province is endowed with a variety of attractive natural heritage sites, including wildlife.

Environment, Climate, Tourism and Hospitality Industry Minister Nqobizitha Mangaliso Ndlovu and his Local Government and Public Works counterpart, July Moyo, who were in Victoria Falls on Monday and Tuesday, ordered ZimParks to allow operators and hoteliers enter the Victoria Falls National Park to take footage of the Falls for use in marketing the country’s tourism.

The national parks houses the Rainforest, Livingstone statue and the best view to the Falls, which are tourism draw cards in the country’s prime resort town.

Scores of tour operators were pooled in groups of 20 each in line with lockdown rule,  and visited the Rainforest on Wednesday between 8am and 5:45pm.

Coming out of the Rainforest, some of the operators said they were already marketing the country on social media to their clients in different source markets.

Africa Travel Tours founder of Mr Lovemore Machipisa said the initiative will go a long way in marketing destination Zimbabwe.

“We appreciate what ZimParks and Zimbabwe Tourism Authority have done.

This means a lot because the Falls are at its peak now and not seeing that is bad for tourism. We can now market to the whole world that the Falls are waiting for them and obviously this corrects that notion about the Falls being dry,” said Mr Machipisa.

Mr Graham Simmonds of Wilderness Safaris said operators needed the Falls’ footage to market the country.

“We managed to get some pictures and videos, which we are already sending to all our contacts and clients. It’s nice to see the Falls again as it invigorates the drive and pushes us to showcase how beautiful the country is. We will use the footage to dispel the negative publicity we got last year from the ‘Vic Falls is dry’ tragedy and this is the right time to show the world when the Falls is at its peak,” said Mr Simmonds.

His sentiments were echoed by Great Plains operations manager Ms Gertrude Makiwa who said: “It’s amazing. We cannot wait to showcase what we have seen. It seems we are at the peak and we are just waiting for domestic tourism before we expand to the world.”

Hospitality Association of Zimbabwe (HAZ) Victoria Falls chapter Mr Anald Musonza commended Government for the gesture.

 “As an industry we thank the Minister (Tourism) for making an instant decision and allowing us to go in free of charge to share this wonderful experience.

Our message is simple, we will rise again. Coming from the Vic Falls is dry story, this puts that negative publicity to shame. This is a huge marketing strategy and already social media is abuzz as everybody is linking up with agents and market,” he said.

“We are privileged to have this wonder. We were all in distress but today it seems like we have gone back to normal relief and everybody now back in office to show the world what they are missing because of the pandemic. The beauty of it is that it’s well looked after and mother nature smiled at us this year. We are marketing and we expect more people to come after this pandemic and Covid-19 has given us an opportunity to really turn Vic Falls into a tourism hub with direct flights and we appeal to Government to help in that regard.”

Briefing the two ministers earlier, Zambezi Camp area manager Mr Daniel Sithole said the wildlife authority had tiled the entrance to the Rainforest for easy cleaning and sanitisation.

A health desk has also been set with a dedicated nurse to attend to all visitors. Inside the National Park, the concrete pavements are sprayed every hour hour to disinfect.