Kariba touted as Southern Africa’s new tourism frontier

from ESTHER SHAVI in Kariba, Zimbabwe Zimbabwe Bureau KARIBA, (CAJ News) BECAUSE of its magnificence and its teeming wildlife as well as clear, mesmerising blue waters and cultural heritage, Kariba has vast potential to be a tourist hub in the Southern African Development Community (SADC) regional bloc.Also boasting the largest man-made dam in the world, the northern Zimbabwean town has the capacity to match the more famous Victoria Falls if properly marketed.

Thus, the Zimbabwean government is intensifying efforts to revive the city as a prime tourist destination.When tourism was at its peak before the onset of the economic and political problems, Kariba was a favourable playground for domestic and international tourists.

Vice President, Constantino Chiwenga relived the town's glory days."Back then, visitors would throng Kariba in their thousands to enjoy the heat, game viewing, casino, boating, fishing and generally the expanse of the inland water body as well as its rich history and cultural heritage," he said.

"This market segment sunk into oblivion due to a number of factors, among them key enabling infrastructure that needs rehabilitation," Chiwenga added.He said Kariba should be developed into another SADC tourism hub, promoting regional integration and filling a gap of development between Zimbabwe and neighbouring Zambia.

"The situation in Kariba calls for serious and meaningful tourism development as well as aggressive marketing of Lake Kariba and its environs," Chiwenga said."Given the location of Kariba, access plays a critical role just like any other tourist attraction.

Kariba is such a powerful tourism magnet that deserves an international airport with the capacity to handle direct international flights from the region and beyond."The government of President Emmerson Mnangagwa has been prioritising the development of the Harare-Chirundu Highway, including the Makuti-Kariba link as a way of improving accessibility to the resort town.

"As the gateway to the vast water body and the entire lower Zambezi, Kariba could be in a similar position as Victoria Falls," Chiwenga said."It is very important that our God-given and shared resources such as the Victoria Falls and the man-made Lake Kariba are well developed and linked in order to improve the livelihoods of our people," he added.

Lake Kariba has been described as the African island sea.Mary Mliswa, Mashonaland West Provincial Affairs Minister, said it is well-known for its spectacular and mesmerising sunset, several islands, rich in wildlife and incredible fishing opportunities.

"Lake Kariba and its beautiful landscapes are the ideal setting to welcome passengers. We are totally won over by the unspoiled wilderness, the exceptional flora and fauna and the breath-taking views," she said.

Lake Kariba covers an area of nearly 5 600 square km and is fed by the mighty Zambezi River which begins its journey 2 700km in northwest Zambia and reaches the Indian Ocean through Mozambique.Kariba main attractions include water-based fishing, game-viewing and house-boating.

Before the turn of the millennium, Kariba used to have about 15 000 arrivals annually, but the figure has been gradually plummeting.Overall, occupancy was at 43 percent and 44 percent for 2017 and 2018 respectively, a situation that jolted the government into action as it seeks to re-position the town to play a role in the country's tourism revival in line with Vision 2030.Godfrey Koti, Zimbabwe Tourism Authority Head of Corporate Affairs, said the government and the tourism authority are soliciting for stakeholder input on measures authorities can devise to awaken Kariba.

"Kariba is host to the world's largest man-made lake and ideally we expect it to be one of the country's major tourist destinations," Koti said.Government has designated Kariba as a tourism development zone to speedily revive the town's fortunes.

Source: CAJ News Agency