THE DEVASTATING terrorist attack in Kenya on September 21 has boosted tourist arrivals in Zimbabwe with the country’s leading tourist resort, Victoria Falls, enjoying an increase in visitors.
Westgate in Nairobi, attacked by militants from Somalia’s al-Shabab terrorist group, is a luxury mall frequented by members of the Kenyan ruling elite as well as wealthy individuals from around the world.
The successful co-hosting of the United Nations World Tourism Organisation (UNWTO) general assembly in August by Victoria Falls was also a plus for the country, according to the Employers’ Association of Tourism Operators (Eatso).
Eatso president and Shearwater Adventures public relations manager Clement Mukwasi confirmed the rise in tourist arrivals since the tragic attack.
“Yes, the bombing in Kenya has had a direct impact on the surge of tourist arrivals, especially in Victoria Falls,” Mukwasi said.
“Most tourists had booked for holidaying in East Africa and the Kenyan attack by al-Shabaab made the majority of them cancel their bookings opting to come to Victoria Falls.”
He said there had been a 20,5% increase in tourists visiting Victoria Falls between September and October this year.
“This was coupled by favourable publicity Victoria Falls got during the UNWTO.
“The event also left improved infrastructure facilities in terms of road network, synergy and accommodation facilities. We are getting a positive response from our international clientele,” Mukwasi said.
“We now compete with East Africa in terms of monthly international tourist arrivals. Our year-to-year percentage arrivals now stand at 2,5%.”
Al-Shabaab attacked the Westgate mall killing about 72 people, with others still reported missing.
In a related development, Mukwasi urged the Victoria Falls Town Council not to increase rates in the 2014 budget saying this would unnecessarily make the resort town an expensive destination as tour operators would pass on the expenses to clients.
“Their increases should only be inflation-driven. They should not kill the goose that lays the golden egg,” he said.
“Tourism is their cash cow. They should articulate incentives which are inviting to tourism investments.
“There is no need to make Victoria Falls an expensive destination by increasing rates.”
His sentiments come hard on the heels of calls by the resort town’s residents for council to stick to the $8 million 2013 budget for the 2014 financial year, saying an increase would overburden the them.