VICTORIA Falls has received a big boost ahead of the United Nations World Tourism Organisation (UNWTO) General Assembly next month, after it recorded an unexpected influx of Japanese tourists arriving for holidays in the resort.
The influx is a first for Zimbabwe since independence during this time of the year, as traditionally, tourist arrivals from the Asian country start in September.
Zimbabwe and Zambia will co-host the international tourism indaba between August 24 and 29 in Victoria Falls and Livingstone.
Employers’ Association for the Tourism and Safari Operators president Clement Mukwasi yesterday confirmed the development and said the influx caught them off guard in terms of their budgets.
“However, it is actually a wake-up call for us tour operators so that we would be able to budget for the UNWTO adequately,” he said.
“It’s good for Victoria Falls’ economy and it is giving operators a good run so that come August, we will be wholly prepared for UNWTO conference.”
Mukwasi said the Japanese influx has put a jump to the statistics on international tourist arrivals for the resort town.
“The Japanese travel season usually kicks off in September, but this time around it changed,” he said.
“This early opening is attributed to the wide publicity given to Victoria Falls ahead of the UNWTO.
“These Japanese are not the traditional ones, but they are those who used to go elsewhere and decided to come to Victoria Falls, after seeing the positive publicity about the resort town.”
Mukwasi said this was the first time for the town to receive so many visitors and hoped the trend could continue.
“These tourists do not come in dribs and drabs, but in huge groups of 60 to 100 per activity,” he said.
“If operators receive three groups per day, you can see for yourself how big the number is. For the past two days the numbers were unexpected.”
Tourist arrivals in Victoria Falls have been increasing significantly since last year after a decade-long slump in business, with the majority of arrivals coming from the United States, Spain, South Africa, Britain and other Asian countries.