With dollar-based pricing, Victoria Falls might not be the first choice of many South African event organisers. But be careful not to write it off too quickly – it’s a destination that never fails to deliver.
Holding an affordable meeting or conference at Zimbabwe’s Victoria Falls is not impossible, says Robin Brown, managing director of Cansaf, a destination management company based in the world-famous town. “It will not be as cheap as some of the package-type venues on offer in South Africa,” he says, but adds that Victoria Falls competes well with some of the more specialised venues in South Africa.
Brown says that while Vic Falls is often considered expensive by South African standards – especially when compared with countries such as Namibia and Mozambique – this is not necessarily the case. “As soon as you start looking at the more exclusive accommodation options in all the Southern African countries, including South Africa and Botswana, for example, then the costs tend to even out.”
“It has a blend of excellent accommodation options and activities – from high-adrenalin water sports and wildlife experiences to soft adventure activities such as helicopter rides and, of course, the relaxing options such as sunset cruises and steam train runs,” he says.
On the other hand, Brown admits that attracting the MICE sector has not been easy – and not only because of the money factor. “One of the most obvious obstacles is the misunderstanding of Zimbabwe’s problems,” says Brown. “There is a lot of press about the economic and political problems and while there is certainly some reality to these issues, there is very little – if any – effect on tourists (both business and leisure) who visit the Victoria Falls,” he says.
According to Brown, corporates often decide to travel to Livingstone in Zambia and then take Victoria Falls off the list as the waterfall experience box has already been ticked. But any group that has visited Zambia in the past three years would have found that a visit to the Zimbabwean side of the river was a very different experience. “Both Zambia and Zimbabwe are working hard to bring this message across to travellers.”
He adds that Zambia can offer experiences that are not available in Zimbabwe and vice versa. “The full spectrum of restaurants, function venues, activity experiences and hotels are different and more thought needs to go into this issue when considering these destinations,” says Brown.
Overcoming the challenges
From a conference organising perspective, finding enough space at the right property in Vic Falls can be problematic. Brown says it is possible to overcome the pricing challenge that the destination poses by negotiating and securing accommodation at least six to 12 months in advance. Group travel to Vic Falls does not have to break the bank, says Brown. “If corporates are willing to push the boundaries a little from the run-of-the-mill package travel options that may initially be offered, they will find some real gems on offer.”
Source: Liesl Venter. Image: Pixabay