Leonard Ncube in Victoria Falls
PLAYERS in the tourism sector were the biggest beneficiaries of the Econet Victoria Falls Marathon, which took place here on Sunday.
Hotels and lodges were fully booked starting last week until Monday while eateries and activities also enjoyed more than 100 percent booking as sports tourists from 43 countries who had registered for the event sought services in the country’s prime resort town, the Zimbabwe Tourism Authority (ZTA), reported.
This is besides scores of visitors who thronged the town not for the sporting event but for holiday. Tourism players, who are smiling all the way to the bank on the backdrop of the event, have said the marathon period is an early Christmas for the industry.
The event also significantly contributed to domestic tourism as 2 657 Zimbabweans from across the country took part in the event, with most of them bringing along their families and friends as cheerleaders.
The resort town has been a hive of activity and yesterday scores of people were still doing activities and sampling what the destination has to offer in terms of food, activities and art.
ZTA chief operations officer Mr Givemore Chidzidzi said the marathon event complements Government efforts to champion sports tourism.
“An event of this magnitude helps the country in various ways. It’s an attraction on its own, which shows the power of mega events on tourists. We are trying to promote sports tourism in Zimbabwe and this iconic event in Victoria Falls has grown from stage to stage and now we talk of 43 countries and more than 3 518 runners who brought their supporters and family here,” said Mr Chidzidzi.
He encouraged Zimbabweans from across all economic sectors to support such initiatives so as to play a part in the country’s engagement and re-engagement efforts.
“We all know of the spending that comes along with this and other benefits that accrue to the economy.
The whole town was busy in the last two days, full of visitors and I believe everyone had a share of the economic activity.
“Victoria Falls has been busy of late with occupancies above 100 percent.
The past two weeks also saw the town hosting the Zimbabwe National Chamber of Commerce and the Africa Union-United Nations Wildlife Economy Summit, which brought 100 percent occupancy and business to the town,” added Mr Chidzidzi.
The marathon came at a time when prospects are looking brighter for the tourism sector, which enters its busiest season that ends with the festive holidays.
Tourism executive Mr Clement Mukwasi, who is president of the Employers Association for Tourism and Safari Operators, said the main beneficiaries were accommodation, food, cruise, game drives and helicopter flights.
“The marathon pulled a lot of domestic tourists into town and activities and accommodation benefited from this. As a destination this is a shot in the direction of Christmas as it came at a time when we are starting the busy season.
“The outlook period is quite promising basing on the bookings we got and are still getting,” he said.
Victoria Falls Mayor Councillor Somvelo Dlamini said those who visited the country for the marathon left as Zimbabwe’s ambassadors.
Econet are the sponsors of the marathon, which has grown into an iconic annual event.
Econet chief operations officer Mr Fayaz King said the company will continuously improve on the sponsorship and event to make it bigger and better each year.
“This year we managed to attract 3 518 athletes from 43 countries comprising new and old comers. We are glad that there is no repetition of countries as new countries are coming on board,” he said. — @ncubeleon