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Zimbabwe returns from the cold

Zimbabwe is slowly yet surely returning from international exile, with travel warnings by the United States, Japanese and German governments lifted this month, and other countries expected to follow suit.

Germany’s ambassador to Zimbabwe, Albrecht Cronze, said the prevailing situation in Zimbabwe no longer justified the travel warnings. The US has scrapped its advisory warning but says this does not signal a shift in US policy toward the unity government.Meanwhile the Australian Embassy in Harare has recommended to its home Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade that Victoria Falls be taken out of its travel advisory against Zimbabwe, and it is hoped that they too will lift the entire travel warning.

Once the breadbasket of Southern Africa, Zimbabwe has tourist attractions abound, including the majestic Victoria Falls, one of the seven natural Wonders of the World, as well as world-class game reserves.

Ross Kennedy, spokesman of expects other countries to follow, and that Victoria Falls would “start to tap into pent-up demand from the UK, EU and other markets” which were holding back from travel to Zimbabwe. He added that Victoria Falls expected an upturn in arrivals towards year-end.

“Whilst it’s clear that the global financial crisis has certainly taken its toll on regional tourism and therefore done some damage to arrivals in Victoria Falls between November 2008 and March this year, between April and the year end, forward bookings are on the increase and we are confident that 2009 will end on a positive note.”

ADVERTISEMENT, an alliance of the key operators in Victoria Falls was launched at Indaba 2006, and has been hugely successful at keeping Victoria Falls, one of the seven natural Wonders of the World on the international tourist map. Its strategy uses a vigorous combination of new media and traditional marketing and PR methods.

“The campaign has played a large part in correcting the image of the destination, and is now viewed as the natural point of referral on anything to do with Victoria Falls.”

The campaign had proved Victoria Falls to be a safe and outstanding, multi-faceted destination catering to most pockets.  The campaign has also achieved remarkable levels of awareness regarding Victoria Falls’ cholera-free status.

Mr Kennedy said solidarity amongst members, individual innovation and smart alliances to place competitive packages on the world market would ensure the growth of business operators in Victoria Falls. “Companies must make and take the decisions they must to survive these tough times.”

Already several airlines, hotels, lodges, tour and ground operators were teaming up to offer promotions whose impact on regional and international markets was already being felt.

As a collective, GoToVictoriaFalls would work to maintain the standards of Victoria Falls’ assets, including the environment, flora and fauna, services and amenities, said Mr Kennedy.  “We must embrace looking to each other to pull through what’s going on around us and to work for an even better destination.”

“GoToVictoriaFalls will certainly continue with renewed energy, some new members and innovative ideas to re-engineer Victoria Falls as one of Africa’s key hubs.”