Victoria Falls has experienced 100 % cancellations of tours by Japanese visitors in the wake of the March 11 earthquake and tsunami which killed thousands of people, tour operators said.
Shearwater Adventures, one of the biggest tour operators in Victoria Falls, said Asian visitors were a critical market since tourism from western countries almost dried up over the last decade.
“Events in Japan have really left a big void in our market,” said Shearwater’s public relations officer Clement Mukwasi. “In the past four days, we have been cancelling bookings from travel agents who had booked the groups. On Monday alone we were supposed to handle 50 clients.
“At the moment we cannot approximate recovery because we don’t know when exactly the citizens will be able to start travelling.”
Mukwasi said most of their Asian visitors were from Japan, South Korea, China and Taiwan.
“Between now and August, the Japanese market was going to provide more clients than other markets into Zimbabwe,” he added. “We will continue to explore other markets to fill the void.”
Forward Mutero, the marketing executive at Khanondo Safaris, also said they had suffered a sharp dip in visitors from the Far East.
“Definitely, arrivals from Japan have been affected. It was an unfortunate act of God which no one could avoid and the Japanese will only start travelling after sorting out the emotional, physical and economic situation in their country,” he said.
Mutero said the inability of the Japanese people to move within their country as a result of infrastructure destruction ensured that even those who want to take a break to Africa are unable to do so.
Official figures say 6,000 people are dead or missing, but emergency services warn this may rise up to 20,000.