Zimbabwe crisis signals boom time for Zambian tourism

VICTORIA FALLS, Zambia, Oct 5, 2006 (AFP) – For years it was regarded as a backwater and the poor relation to its southern neighbour, but the spiralling crisis in Zimbabwe has led to a massive upsurge in Zambia’s tourism industry. A total of 650,000 foreign visitors travelled to Zambia last year, a rise of nearly half a million on the year 2000, bringing in vital revenue to one of the poorest countries in Africa.

The figures however contrast sharply with those for President Robert Mugabe’s Zimbabwe, for so long a favourite haunt of Western tourists but which recorded a 49 percent fall in visitor numbers last year.

The reversal of fortunes is most starkly illustrated at the Victoria Falls, one of the world’s great tourist attractions which straddles the common border.

In the nearby Zambian town of Livingstone, named after the British explorer David Livingstone who was the first Westerner to set eyes on the falls, new hotels and a first shopping mall have sprung up in recent months while work to extend the runway at the local airport is currently ongoing.

While the once sleepy Livingstone is bustling with activity, cut-price deals on the Zimbabwean side have failed to fill the vacancies in hotels such as The Royal, a