Victoria Falls: Tourism crippled by Covid at world's natural wonder

  • Video report by ITV News Senior International Correspondent John Irvine

It’s rare to have a natural wonder of the world to wonder at on your own. But that was how it was when we went to Victoria Falls in Zimbabwe.

For most of the time we spent marveling at this epic spectacle we were the only visitors on site. And with the Zambezi River in full flow the falls are looking their best.

They are cascading into a chasm twice as deep as Niagara at a rate of roughly eight million litres a second.

But over the last year the waters of the Zambezi aren’t the only thing to have fallen off a cliff here – tourist numbers have too. And that has had consequences for all the locals, human beings and animals alike.

In the years BC (Before Covid) Victoria Falls was this country’s boom town, attracting a million tourists a year. The world-famous charmer, the Victoria Falls Hotel, has 161 rooms. Today just one of them is occupied.

At the hotel we stayed at I was the fifth guest to check in since March last year. The souvenir sellers are struggling to get by.

They are praying that Easter brings an end to the visitor drought.

Credit: ITV News

In Southern Africa about 10% of the money that tourism brings in goes to conservation and the battle against poaching. Over the last year poaching has increased in the national parks that surround the falls.

Increasingly desperate people have resorted to poaching bush meat to get by. Through their absence tourists have highlighted the vital role they play in preserving this environment and its riches.

So everyone is keeping fingers crossed that a return to the good times is just around the corner. For them it’s a cruel irony that in the absence of anyone to see them Victoria Falls have rarely looked better.