VICTORIA FALLS residents are cashing in on the shortage of accommodation in the resort town ahead of the President Robert Mugabe’s 91st birthday celebrations on Saturday, with calls for Zambia and Zimbabwe to rationalise rates so that some delegates could be accommodated in the neighbouring country.
Organisers of the event have appealed to residents to help with accommodation so that they augment the already fully booked hotels and lodges.
Reports are that some of the delegates had now been booked in hotels and lodges in Hwange, about 100km from Victoria Falls.
Enterprising residents in Victoria Falls are reportedly making a killing by charging rates ranging between $120 to $140 for some houses, which meet hotel and lodge standards, per room for bed and breakfast.
Those in suburbs are charging delegates nothing less than $100.
Tourism operators have confirmed the shortage of accommodation and said they were looking at Livingstone to help accommodate delegates.
Employer’s Association for Safari and Tourism Operators president Clement Mukwasi said: “It’s true that the whole of Victoria Falls is fully booked.
“This is not the first time that we have experienced the overflow of clients due to a very good meeting.
“Residents of Victoria Falls are going to help us in the manner they had helped us before, to accommodate any person who fails to get accommodation in the formal tourism sector.”
He appealed to the governments of Zimbabwe and Zambia to rationalise their rates and make the times for entry and exit at the border posts flexible.
“We expected that delegates who fail to sleep in Zimbabwe could go to Livingstone anytime without border impediments,” he said.
“As an industry we aren’t only focusing on these celebrations but to have the borders operate 24 hours – a day to facilitate free movement of tourists.”
The 21st February Movement main celebrations will be held at Elephants Hills Golf Course on 28 February.
A gala will be held at Chinotimba Stadium soon after the main event, while 111 children born on February 21 will be hosted at Victoria Falls Farm School on Friday.