Implications of Misleading News Reporting on Tourism at the Victoria Falls, Zimbabwe

William Mushawemhuka aDepartment of Geography, Environmental Management and Energy Studies, University of Johannesburg, Johannesburg, South Africa

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Gijsbert Hoogendoorn aDepartment of Geography, Environmental Management and Energy Studies, University of Johannesburg, Johannesburg, South Africa

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Jennifer M. Fitchett bSchool of Geography, Archaeology and Environmental Studies, University of the Witwatersrand, Johannesburg, South Africa

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Abstract

The tourism sector plays a major role in the economic development of a number of countries in the global south, particularly southern Africa. One such country is Zimbabwe, which struggles with significant economic hardships and relies heavily on the tourism sector. The Victoria Falls, a key tourism attraction of Zimbabwe on the Zambezi River, was the subject of a plethora of news articles published between November 2019 and January 2020. The media suggested that the world’s largest waterfall had dried up as a result of climate change–induced drought. These reports arose during the dry season and were thus arguably ill founded and downplayed the natural seasonal characteristics of the Zambezi River. This paper presents content analysis of these media articles and the phenomenological qualitative data analysis of interviews conducted with tourism operators in Victoria Falls. Although some of the articles published within this period strived for accurate reporting, some articles claimed that the Victoria Falls was dry, which was inconsistent with experiences of tourism operators. This inaccurate reporting is argued by the tourism operators to have negatively affected the tourism sector and destination image of the key attraction. This paper highlights the need for accurate science-based media reporting on weather, climate, climate change, and the knowledge of the local tourism stakeholders within the tourism sector.

© 2021 American Meteorological Society. For information regarding reuse of this content and general copyright information, consult the AMS Copyright Policy (www.ametsoc.org/PUBSReuseLicenses).

Corresponding author: Gijsbert Hoogendoorn, ghoogendoorn@uj.ac.za

Abstract

The tourism sector plays a major role in the economic development of a number of countries in the global south, particularly southern Africa. One such country is Zimbabwe, which struggles with significant economic hardships and relies heavily on the tourism sector. The Victoria Falls, a key tourism attraction of Zimbabwe on the Zambezi River, was the subject of a plethora of news articles published between November 2019 and January 2020. The media suggested that the world’s largest waterfall had dried up as a result of climate change–induced drought. These reports arose during the dry season and were thus arguably ill founded and downplayed the natural seasonal characteristics of the Zambezi River. This paper presents content analysis of these media articles and the phenomenological qualitative data analysis of interviews conducted with tourism operators in Victoria Falls. Although some of the articles published within this period strived for accurate reporting, some articles claimed that the Victoria Falls was dry, which was inconsistent with experiences of tourism operators. This inaccurate reporting is argued by the tourism operators to have negatively affected the tourism sector and destination image of the key attraction. This paper highlights the need for accurate science-based media reporting on weather, climate, climate change, and the knowledge of the local tourism stakeholders within the tourism sector.

© 2021 American Meteorological Society. For information regarding reuse of this content and general copyright information, consult the AMS Copyright Policy (www.ametsoc.org/PUBSReuseLicenses).

Corresponding author: Gijsbert Hoogendoorn, ghoogendoorn@uj.ac.za
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