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Climate change and potential impacts on tourism: evidence from the Zimbabwean side of the Victoria Falls

ABSTRACT

              Tourism is a crucial development sector that employs thousands of people and contributes to addressing the triple challenge of poverty, inequality and unemployment in previously disadvantaged communities. In Zimbabwe, tourism is a fundamental tool for development that depends on the rich natural resource base to attract international tourists. This paper assesses the evidence of climate variability and change and its potential impact on the global tourist resort of Victoria Falls, Zimbabwe. The research made use of over 40 years of meteorological and hydrography data that were supplemented by an online tourist survey that got 369 responses from across the world. Data analysis was conducted using the Statistical Package for Social Sciences and Microsoft Excel Analysis ToolPak. Overall, it emerged that, indeed, climate variability and change is taking place. There has been an increase in the maximum and minimum temperature. The largest temperature increase was recorded in October. A slight increase in rainfall was observed, albeit increased incidence of extreme rainfall and drought events. Delays in the onset of the rainfall season were noticeable with a shift from October to November. Extreme hydrological variations were evident in the flow regime of the falls. The paper concludes that the observed climate variability and change trends have potential effects on the tourism industry, particularly as expressed by the responses from the online survey, which favoured high water flow regimes as providing the best view of the falls. The paper recommends improved communication with tourists including a new climate and hydrological calendar for the resort to manage tourists’ expectations in the light of the noted change.