Zimbabwe Parks and Wildlife Management Authority (Zimparks) is planning to upgrade facilities and install artificial lighting in the famed Victoria Falls Rainforest, which it is considering opening round the clock to attract more tourists.
The Rainforest, located within the 2,340-hectare Victoria Falls National Park, is visited on average by 250,000 tourists annually, 75 percent of them foreign visitors and offers unparalleled views of the Victoria Falls, Zimbabwe’s premier tourist attraction.The Falls are the largest curtain of naturally falling water in the world measuring 1.7km wide and 108m in depth and are one of the seven natural wonders of the world.
About 198,000 people paid to visit the Rainforest in 2012. Zimparks feels the numbers are too low and is looking at the possibility of opening the Rainforest around the clock.
“As Zimparks we are looking at coming up with 7 star hotel facilities with conferencing service in Victoria Falls National Park as well as improving the Rainforest waterfall viewpoints and the restaurant overlooking Zambezi River,” Zimparks deputy director general George Manyumwa told a visiting Chinese delegation examining the proposed location of a Special Economic Zone (SEZ) in the area.
Government has earmarked Victoria Falls, Harare’s Sunway City, Bulawayo, Mutare and Lupane for the SEZ development. “There will also be renovation of entrance to increase range of services and luxury goods, duty free retail shops as well as illumination of Rainforest to enable 24 hour visitation,” he said.
He did not give details about revenue but it costs $7 for locals to enter the Rainforest while regional and international tourists pay $20 and $30 respectively.
Manyumwa said the Victoria Falls town had a limited number of activities at night, resulting in visitors limiting their average visitation to one day. “The new airport can now handle 1,5 million passengers a year which is an opportunity to increase tourist arrivals,” he said. Last week, Tourism Minister Walter Mzembi said Zimbabwe had signed a comprehensive agreement with unnamed Chinese investors for the construction of a ‘Disneyland in Africa’, a tourism and conference theme park in the resort town.
Government is also exploring the option of making the theme park a part of the economic zone, officials said, adding that no firm decision had been made, officials said.