SENIOR Chief Mukuni of the Toka-Leya People of Kazungula District in Southern Province has opposed calls to commercialise Victoria Falls as a way of attracting more tourists to the site. He said there was need to maintain Victoria Falls in the natural form so that visitors get the real taste of the natural wonder of the world.
In an interview in Livingstone, Senior Chief Mukuni noted that tourists around the world were interested in viewing Victoria Falls in its natural form as opposed to viewing an imitation of the Falls.
“In my opinion, we should keep the Falls as natural as possible and not commercialise it. In any case, the Falls is already commercialised because you can get internet in the nearby hotels.
There is nothing wrong in having moonlight to visit Victoria Falls in the night and still keep it as natural as possible,” he said.
Last month, Zimbabwe Tourism Authority (ZTA) Chief Executive Karikoga Kaseke said in an interview in Harare that Zambia and Zimbabwe should commercialise the Victoria Falls destination like the case was for Niagara Falls in United States of America (USA) to attract more tourists across the globe.
Niagara Falls, which is smaller compared to Victoria Falls, attracts about US$ 30 billion earnings yearly while both sides of the Victoria Falls in Zambia and Zimbabwe only attracts an income of less than $500, 000 annually.
Mr Kaseke said there was need to commercialise Victoria Falls by electrifying the premises, putting up modern infrastructure and ensuring that water flows were reasonable throughout the year.
Victoria Falls, is not open to the public in the night, could not attract more tourists in its current state because it was a seasonal activity and it lacked modern infrastructure.
Mr Kaseke said Niagara Falls had been commercialised and it was attracting $30 billion earnings annually compared to less than $500, 000 earnings recorded at the Victoria Falls for Zimbabwe and Zambia.
“ By any measure, Victoria Falls is far much bigger than Niagara Falls. But look, we have tried to make Victoria Falls remain as natural as possible.
“This is good for other purposes but what it means is that we have not fully commercialised the Falls. We need to electrify Victoria Falls and start running it on 24 hours basis instead of closing the premises in the night,” he said.
Victoria Falls had potential to raise more revenue from tourists if the area had electricity, steady water flows, restaurants, accommodation facilities and other modern amenities like the case at Niagara Falls.
“We don’t need the Falls to remain a natural world heritage site as stipulated by United Nations Educational, Scientific, and Cultural Organisation (UNESCO). We need to go the Niagara Falls way and make money for our people and our economies. We can gain a lot of benefits if we commercialise, ” Mr Kaseke said.
He asked Zambia and Zimbabwe to forgo the $25, 000 which UNESCO gave them per year to maintain the Falls as a natural heritage site.