Curse of Zimbabwe hits southern Africa

Mugabe's regime is damaging the tourist trade in neighbouring countries, says Joanne Watson

As the obnoxious regime of President Robert Mugabe continues to abuse human rights, few tourists are travelling to Zimbabwe. Unlike Burma, there is no concerted tourism boycott of the country - rather, a collective sense of moral outrage at what Mugabe is doing to his country and people is keeping travellers away. But the stance many have adopted is severely affecting other southern African countries.

Victoria Falls, for many an essential component of any trip to southern Africa, is virtually deserted. Less obvious perhaps are the consequences for the tourist trade of Zimbabwe's neighbours, as the town is also a conduit for those wishing to cross the border into Botswana or Zambia.

The airport on Zimbabwe's side of the Falls airport is able to handle large aircraft; the nearest airfields in the other countries cannot. Many of those on my plane (which was about one-third full, with most passengers being American and French) were ultimately destined for countries other than Zimbabwe.

Even if you want to get out of Zimbabwe as fast as possible you still have to buy a visa, costing US$55 (£35) for a single entry (which allows day trips over the border) or $77 (£50) for a double-entry visa if you stay over in another country and intend to return the way you came. That's in addition to the $30 (£19) fee to get out.

The US dollar is king in Zimbabwe; all trip prices are quoted in dollars and then translated back into Zim dollars at the absurd official rate. The parallel rate varies, but it is around six or seven times higher - or, should you want to risk getting either mugged or arrested, even greater via the youthful local moneychangers in the town centre.

Like many, our trip was to see the game in Botswana's Chobe national park and to see the Victoria Falls from the Zambian side. In visiting both, it was immediately evident how they are being affected by the dearth of tourists.

Botswana, which has targeted an upmarket clientele, now finds its swish lodges on the border equally deserted. At $200 (£130) a night they used to do good business; now many people aren't prepared to travel through Zimbabwe to get there. The large boats that once cruised up and down the river are moored, redundant, on the banks. During a morning game-drive we saw just three other vehicles. An attempt to change some $50 bills into smaller denominations failed, as the hotel cashier said that they hadn't had any business generating dollars to make the currency available.

It's a similar story in Zambia. The nearest town to the falls is Livingstone, about seven miles from the border. Whereas hotel prices on the Zimbabwean side have fallen in a desperate attempt to generate business, those on the Zambian side have, bizarrely, multiplied. One hotel that quoted $120 (£75) a night last year is now asking $340 (£215), but there are few takers. Even the bungee-jumping operators on the grand old iron bridge over the Zambezi are trying in vain to drum up business.

A salutary lesson came in the deserted curio market. While we haggled over the price of a wooden hippo, another young stall-holder asked us for our used plastic water-bottles. They were wanted, he said, to put paraffin in as bottles were in short supply. So, too, is hope.

Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Travel
ebookHow to enjoy the perfect short break in 20 great cities
Independent Travel Videos
Independent Travel Videos
Simon Calder in Amsterdam
Independent Travel Videos
Simon Calder in Giverny
Independent Travel Videos
Simon Calder in St John's
Independent Travel Videos
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

ES Rentals

    iJobs Job Widget
    iJobs Travel

    Recruitment Genius: Web Developer - Junior / Mid Weight

    £15000 - £25000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: To support their continued grow...

    Recruitment Genius: Transportation Contracting Manager

    £33000 - £38000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A global player and world leade...

    Recruitment Genius: Hotel and Spa Duty Manager

    £18000 - £24000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: If you are friendly, sociable, ...

    Recruitment Genius: Payroll and Benefits Co-ordinator

    £22300 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This museum group is looking for a Payro...

    Day In a Page

    Is this the future of flying: battery-powered planes made of plastic, and without flight decks?

    Is this the future of flying?

    Battery-powered planes made of plastic, and without flight decks
    Isis are barbarians – but the Caliphate is a dream at the heart of all Muslim traditions

    Isis are barbarians

    but the Caliphate is an ancient Muslim ideal
    The Brink's-Mat curse strikes again: three tons of stolen gold that brought only grief

    Curse of Brink's Mat strikes again

    Death of John 'Goldfinger' Palmer the latest killing related to 1983 heist
    Greece debt crisis: 'The ministers talk to us about miracles' – why Greeks are cynical ahead of the bailout referendum

    'The ministers talk to us about miracles'

    Why Greeks are cynical ahead of the bailout referendum
    Call of the wild: How science is learning to decode the way animals communicate

    Call of the wild

    How science is learning to decode the way animals communicate
    Greece debt crisis: What happened to democracy when it’s a case of 'Vote Yes or else'?

    'The economic collapse has happened. What is at risk now is democracy...'

    If it doesn’t work in Europe, how is it supposed to work in India or the Middle East, asks Robert Fisk
    The science of swearing: What lies behind the use of four-letter words?

    The science of swearing

    What lies behind the use of four-letter words?
    The Real Stories of Migrant Britain: Clive fled from Zimbabwe - now it won't have him back

    The Real Stories of Migrant Britain

    Clive fled from Zimbabwe - now it won’t have him back
    Africa on the menu: Three foodie friends want to popularise dishes from the continent

    Africa on the menu

    Three foodie friends want to popularise dishes from the hot new continent
    Donna Karan is stepping down after 30 years - so who will fill the DKNY creator's boots?

    Who will fill Donna Karan's boots?

    The designer is stepping down as Chief Designer of DKNY after 30 years. Alexander Fury looks back at the career of 'America's Chanel'
    10 best statement lightbulbs

    10 best statement lightbulbs

    Dare to bare with some out-of-the-ordinary illumination
    Wimbledon 2015: Heather Watson - 'I had Serena's poster on my wall – now I'm playing her'

    Heather Watson: 'I had Serena's poster on my wall – now I'm playing her'

    Briton pumped up for dream meeting with world No 1
    Wimbledon 2015: Nick Bollettieri - It's time for big John Isner to produce the goods to go with his thumping serve

    Nick Bollettieri's Wimbledon Files

    It's time for big John Isner to produce the goods to go with his thumping serve
    Dustin Brown: Who is the tennis player who knocked Rafael Nadal out of Wimbeldon 2015?

    Dustin Brown

    Who is the German player that knocked Nadal out of Wimbeldon 2015?
    Ashes 2015: Damien Martyn - 'England are fired up again, just like in 2005...'

    Damien Martyn: 'England are fired up again, just like in 2005...'

    Australian veteran of that Ashes series, believes the hosts' may become unstoppable if they win the first Test