Zimbabwe, World Bank’s IFC announce joint plan to grow Victoria Falls

Zimbabwe and International Finance Corporation (IFC), a member of the World Bank Group, have launched an initiative to boost tourism in Victoria Falls and support recovery in Zimbabwe’s tourism industry, the worst hit by COVID-19.

The initiative, the ‘Victoria Falls Area Tourism Development Plan’ is part of the multi-year Zimbabwe Destination Development Program (ZDDP), an advisory program launched in January and sponsored by Ministries of Tourism, Transport, and the IFC.

Under the plan, a road-map will be set towards growth around Victoria Falls and the wider area, including Masuwe, “in a feasible, phased, and sustainable way”, the IFC said in a statement.

The plan will recommend detailed actions in areas such as data collection, marketing and skills development, infrastructure, and viable project investments.

“The plan is needed to support the destination’s recovery from the COVID-19 crisis and build longer-term resilience and pathways to growth,” Tourism Permanent Secretary Munesu Munodawafa said.

Freedthinkers, a destination development firm, will lead the development plan process.

The company’s CEO, Mike Freedman, said: “This is an exciting opportunity for all stakeholders to build a new future for Victoria Falls. We believe in the power of many minds to co-create a generosity of ideas, to balance conservation with development, and to respect and promote a unique sense of place.”

Freedthinkers has also been responsible for the Cape Town City Development Strategy, and the repurposing of diamond-mining town Oranjemund in Namibia, amongst others.

Saving Vic Falls

Victoria Falls, one of the world’s largest falls, is Zimbabwe’s main tourism hub and supports about 25,000 direct jobs.

Travel restrictions imposed because of COVID-19 have collapsed global tourism, forcing businesses to retrench nearly 30 percent of tourism employees in the Victoria Falls area in recent months.

Zimbabwe could lose as much as US$1.1 billion in tourism earnings, essentially its entire annual receipts, due to COVID-19, Tourism Minister Mangaliso Ndlovu said in May. 

The World Tourism Organization (UNWTO) projects the world tourism industry to fall by up to 80% year-on-year in 2020, the worst decline in history.