| Victoria Falls Town
Whilst the Victoria Falls bridge was being constructed at the turn of the 20th century a temporary hotel was constructed on the south bank of the river for use by the construction workers and others involved with building the bridge. However, once the bridge was completed in 1905 the tourism traffic to the region was such that they decided to expand the hotel’s capacity, much to the town of Livingstone’s dismay. The hotel was called The Victoria Falls Hotel which still stands today, albeit in a rather different guise to its humble beginnings.
Old Drift, as the settlement used to be called relocated away from the river not long after the bridge was opened. Many settlers complained about this for fear of losing out of the potential increase in tourism. Livingstone, the new name for the settlement struggled to sustain itself due to the move away from the Falls and the Zambezi River. However, this was somewhat alleviated by making Livingstone the capital of the region, later known as Northern Rhodesia.
With many settlers wanting to relocate Livingstone back to Falls, so began an attempted breakaway movement from Livingstone back to the south bank of the river near the Victoria Falls Hotel. But as is the way with politics, this proved to be more complicated than anticipated.
By 1909, despite the powers that be finally endorsing a new settlement on the south bank of the river, the development had been all but abandoned. However, in 1910 Percy Clark launched the first motorised boat specifically designed for leisure cruises on the Zambezi above the Falls. He would sell the trips out of the Victoria Falls Hotel and pay the hotel a commission. The first official activity in the region, and the first example of an operator paying an agent commissions.
Clark also promoted trips to the islands above the Victoria Falls and, specifically, to Livingstone Island and Devil’s Pool. An activity you can take part in today. The Victoria Falls Hotel quickly saw the potential in what Clark was doing and offered to purchase his boat. Clark declined and so the hotel purchased their own boat. And so competition for the tourist dollar began.
Undeterred Clark began a small business transporting tourists to the Falls by rickshaw. Again, he lost out to the hotel as it too started the same idea.
In the late 1920’s aircraft were introduced to the region offering aerial views of the Falls to visiting tourists. By now the town on the south bank was growing and servicing tourists from all over the world.
Unlike Livingstone on the other side of the Zambezi River, Victoria Falls town was built from the ground up with tourism in mind. As more and more activities were added, more and more tourists came flooding in. And whilst Victoria Falls Town flourished, Livingstone remained somewhat devoid of tourism maintaining its position as the administrative capital as the construction of the railway headed north.
You can see the stark contrast between the two towns to this day. Whilst Livingstone is rich in colonial architecture and state buildings befitting a capital of the times, Victoria Falls Town very much resembles a tourist resort.
Over time the popularity of Victoria Falls Town dwindled. In part this was due to the changing times, independence from British rule and political upheaval. And as tourism began to fall in the mid to late 1990’s, so it began to rise in Livingstone. Since then the two towns have seen their ups and downs whilst both maintaining a valid reason to be the go-to destination when visiting the Falls.
Nowadays both towns host daily international flights from South Africa and both offer a fulfilling visit to the Victoria Falls. For those that would prefer a town structured with tourism in mind Victoria Falls Town may well be your preferred choice.