Friday, 4 June 2021

Old Mutual to build four-star hotel in Victoria Falls

 Property giant, Old Mutual Zimbabwe, through its life assurance arm, Old Mutual Life Assurance Company Zimbabwe (OMLAC), is set to construct a four-star hotel in Victoria Falls city, a Government minister revealed on Tuesday.

The deal comes as Government is working on a feasibility study for the development of bulk infrastructure in the resort city.

Victoria Falls has been designated as a Special Economic Zone, and the feasibility study will inform the viability of the proposed economic activities and infrastructure needs.

To finance and undertake the feasibility study, which will be conducted in the Masuwe Area of the Victoria Falls Economic Zone, OMLAC reportedly agreed to meet the costs amounting to US$430 948,29.

Briefing the media during a post Cabinet meeting on Tuesday, Information, Publicity and Broadcasting Services Minister Monica Mutsvangwa  said in exchange for the funding, Government will allocate the corporate giant 55 hectares of land under lease.

Once OMLAC recovers the cost of the feasibility study (US$430 948,29) it will then have to pay rentals for the land, Minister Mutsvangwa pointed out.

Old Mutual, which is already one of the country’s biggest property owners, is reportedly planning to construct “a four-star hotel with a 5 000-seater conference centre, a hospital facility, a golf course, and a shopping mall”.

Interestingly the latest development comes as Old Mutual is also involved in the construction of the Palm River Hotel in Victoria Falls.

Spencers Creek Pvt Ltd in partnership with Old Mutual Zimbabwe invested approximately US$24,6 million in land and construction of the 71-room four-star hotel, which is expected to commence operations this July.

Meanwhile, in another development earmarked for the resort city, Government also approved a joint venture between the Zimbabwe Parks and Wildlife Management Authority (ZimParks) and Zambezi Crescent (Pvt) Ltd.

The two entities are in partnership for the revamping and upgrading of all of ZimParks’ lodges at Zambezi Camp to an agreed market-related status at a total cost of US$3 009 000.

This amount will be contributed by Zambezi Crescent (Pvt) Ltd while ZimParks will provide exclusive rights to the use of the lodges at the camp and their surroundings.

The project will be implemented as a joint venture over 25 years with the parties sharing profits on a 50/50 basis, according to Minister Mutsvangwa.

She said the joint venture is set to significantly improve the performance of the Zambezi Camp Lodges which are strategically located along the banks of the Zambezi, but have been performing poorly over the years. 

Source: Old Mutual to build four-star hotel in Victoria Falls (03/06/21)

Thursday, 15 April 2021

Radisson Hotel Group to operate controversial new hotel development

Radisson Hotel Group is proud to announce its first resort and third hotel in Zambia, with the signing of Radisson Blu Resort Mosi-oa-Tunya, Livingstone, Zambia. Due to open by the end of 2022, this new addition places the Group firmly on track to achieving its objective of reaching 150 hotels in operation and under development in Africa by 2025.

A computer generated visualisation of the Mosi-oa-Tunya Livingstone Resort development

Nestled on the banks of one of Africa's longest rivers, the Zambezi, in Mosi-oa-Tunya National Park, 5km south of the historic city of Livingstone, just 4km north west of the Victoria Falls, one of the seven natural wonders of the world and an UNESCO world heritage site. Convenience is amplified with Harry Mwanga Nkumbula International Airport located just 15 minutes away.

For an immersive experience of the destination, situated right next door, is Safari Par Excellence, offering unique on and off the river adventure activities, from Victoria Falls bridge activities, water-rafting, canoeing and game drives to helicopter rides, river cruises and elephant encounters.

The hotel will be constructed and operated with the greatest respect to its close proximity of the natural wonders and aims to obtain the EDGE green building certification as well sign the UNESCO Sustainable Tourism Pledge, becoming a best practice in the implementation of Radisson Hotel Group's leading Responsible Business program.

The construction of the new hotel which is currently underway, and the design fully integrate local materials and focuses on employing and upskilling local craftspeople. It will consist of a contemporary 174-room main hotel and 26 luxurious villas. Guests can indulge in their favourite cuisine at the all-day dining restaurant and sit back with their favourite drink at the coffee bar. To bask in the fresh African evening air in comfort, guests can gather around the outdoor boma and firepit. During their stay, guests can also enjoy the hotel's expansive swimming pool, find serenity at the spa or maintain their health at the sports and fitness gym. Ideal for all occasions, the hotel's meetings and events facilities will include a ballroom of over 500sqm, boardrooms as well as meeting rooms, perfect for leisure and business use.

Source: Radisson Hotel Group Announces Its Arrival At Victoria Falls, An Unesco World Heritage Site (15/04/21)

Background: New Hotel Development Threatens Livingstone's Elephants (12/08/20)

Saturday, 10 April 2021

Victoria Falls records subdued activities during Easter

 Leonard Ncube and Lingani Nyika, Chronicle Reporters

SIGNIFICANT bookings were recorded in boat cruise and high wire activities during this year’s Easter holiday but business was low on the accommodation side.

The Easter holiday started on Good Friday and ends today before the normal work and school schedules resume tomorrow.

Easter and Christmas holidays are traditionally peak periods for the local tourism industry as they are characterised by huge arrivals and bookings around resorts and leisure places.

Domestic tourists usually top the travel list during Easter while the festive season has also over the years recorded significant numbers of regional clients visiting Zimbabwe for the Victoria Falls Carnival that takes place in December.

However, for the second year running Easter has been subdued because of travel restrictions and lockdown as land borders remain closed while most countries are also yet to lift restrictions on international travel in an effort to curb Covid-19.

Families usually travel during Easter for gatherings and spending time with their children but this year the fact that schools are open and learners who attend boarding schools were barred from leaving their institutions meant less traveling.

Traditionally, Victoria Falls streets would be a hive of activity with scores of people moving about while many will be sampling different activities around the city.

In the past week, streets were quiet with a few occasional sit-ins at restaurants.

Employers Association for the Tourism and Safari Operators (EATSO) national president Mr Clement Mukwasi said significant bookings were recorded in boat cruise and high wire activities as well as tour of the Falls.

“It looks like high wire activities have attracted quite a lot of tourists this Easter compared to last year. The same applies to cruises that are running at full capacity because of the reduced numbers that have been prescribed due to Covid-19 rules where operators must carry 50 percent of their capacity.

“So, we have had full bookings for cruises and a lot of people coming in to do high wire activities as well as touring the Falls. We also had a lot of people visiting food outlets where sit-ins are now allowed for a limited number of people,” said Mr Mukwasi.

Without giving statistics, Mr Mukwasi said a majority of tourists were locals from Hwange, Bulawayo and Harare among other places.

Some of them were one-day trippers who visited Victoria Falls to do activities and drove back without sleeping over, a trend that is popular mostly with Zimbabweans who have expressed concern that accommodation charges are beyond their reach.

Mr Mukwasi said there were few people from the region especially from South Africa, probably because of the fact that land borders are still closed.

A quick check in the central business district yesterday showed clear streets and mostly no customers at restaurants around the CBD.

Usually, restaurants get brisk business late afternoon and evening when tourists return from other activities.

The news crew was told that there was a bit of activity at the Crocodile Farm near Zambezi River where some locals were enjoying time playing with the reptiles.

Hospitality Association of Zimbabwe (Haz) local chapter chair Mr Anald Musonza said business was very low on the accommodation front.

He said the industry pins hopes on the ongoing vaccination exercise especially in Victoria Falls to boost confidence among travellers.

“This Easter holiday remained very quiet and we hope for better days going forward,” he said.

The low business also affected taxi drivers who usually record brisk business during such holidays.

“So far there are no clients. We were expecting better business during the holiday since people have been vaccinated but it is actually the opposite. The whole week has been quiet and today we have been parked with no single client,” said Mr Viyani Ncube of Vee Taxis. — @ncubeleon

Source: Victoria Falls records subdued activities during Easter (05/04/21)

Monday, 8 March 2021

Victoria Falls baboons wreak havoc

 Leonard Ncube, Victoria Falls Reporter

BABOONS are causing havoc in Victoria Falls where they have developed a habit of ambushing people and snatching food from them.

They have become violent and charge at anyone carrying food.

While the presence of baboons is not unusual in border towns and ports of entry such as Victoria Falls including Kazungula, Beitbridge and Chirundu, lately they have been vicious as they enter shops and houses to steal food.

The behaviour is probably triggered by hunger as they cannot find fast-food leftovers in rubbish bins which are always empty because of lack of tourism activity and restricted operation of restaurants.

While elsewhere baboons feed on wild fruits in the forest, Victoria Falls and other border towns’ baboons have developed a liking for homemade food and leftovers from restaurants hence they move around emptying bins as they scavenge for leftovers.

However, baboons now enter houses and shops to steal food.

A few days ago a baboon caused a stir when it entered OK Supermarket and stole a packet of chips.

It attempted to go in through the front door but was chased away. Undeterred, it returned to enter through the roof and jumped into the shop through the ceiling, leaving shoppers shocked.

The baboons have reportedly been breaking windows to gain entry into shops.

A news crew has been observing baboons scavenging for food in bins which they empty thereby polluting the area.

Some move in troops while others attack as individuals.

The central business district is the worst affected.

Speaking on condition of anonymity, some residents said the baboons had turned Victoria Falls into a war zone.

“We clean baboon poo in the office almost every day. I think they had mastered the lockdown business hours and would enter the shops once people knock off. Lately they have been breaking into shops even in the presence of people. They broke two window panes into our shop and have been sneaking inside and mess around before entering the ceiling. Sometimes we see them peeping inside wanting to come in,” said an employee at one of the shops.

Residents have appealed to the Zimbabwe Parks and Wildlife Management Authority (ZimParks) to drive the baboons away.

They said it’s now risky to move around carrying food as the baboons can differentiate plastic bags from food outlets from those from other shops.

Residents said women have fallen victim to the menacing baboons more than men.

Recently some baboons ambushed three women who were carrying some groceries forcing them to seek refuge at the ZimParks town office.

“Some now camp in front of Chicken Inn or OK shops and snatch whatever they see people carrying. One baboon recently caused a stir when it entered OK shop, went on top of a butchery fridge before jumping onto a nearby shelf where it snatched a packet of chips and fled. On another day they charged at a man who had just bought two pies and he threw them down as he fled,” said a source.

Tourism operators fear the baboons will harass tourists if they are not driven away.

“Baboons have become a real menace in town because companies are closed and there is no food in rubbish bins.

These problem animals may continue to harass people when tourism opens as this is their new behaviour hence we implore national parks to capture them and migrate them elsewhere,” said tourism executive Mr Clement Mukwasi.

Councillor Netsai Shoko whose Ward 2 covers the central business district said the situation has gone out of hand.
She implored ZimParks to drive away the animals.

“The baboons are now roaming freely and terrorising residents and school children from whom they also snatch school bags. “People can’t freely walk around carrying groceries. Last week we rescued a small boy in Chinotimba as baboons charged at him because he was carrying some food. They get into yards and sneak into houses where they open fridges and cupboards to steal food. Nearly everyone is complaining about the baboons and ZimParks has to do something,” said Clr Shoko.

Even rural communities are also affected.

Chief Whange said some villagers in Kasibo are staring hunger after their maize crops were eaten by marauding baboons.

“We have a serious problem of baboons. They are too many and we have reported to rangers who drove them away but they have come back. People were expecting a bumper harvest but their fields have been destroyed,” he said. — @ncubeleon

Source: Victoria Falls baboons wreak havoc (08/03/21)

Saturday, 6 March 2021

Zambia shelves Victoria Falls Bridge decision

 Victoria Falls – The Zambia Revenue Authority (ZRA) has indefinitely shelved plans to force haulage trucks to use Kazungula Bridge by denying them access through Livingstone-Victoria Falls Border Post.

The ban was supposed to be effective March 1, 2021 and the justification given was the need to reduce the volume of heavy commercial traffic into the resorts of Livingstone and Victoria Falls towns.

Four countries – Botswana, Namibia, Zambia and Zimbabwe –meet at the Kazungula quadripoint. Botswana and Zambia recently opened a bridge at Kazungula to link the two countries, in a project that Zimbabwe declined to participate in.

A former vice-president of the Zimbabwe National Chamber of Commerce, Mr Ozious Marange, said the ZRA’s rethink was welcome.

“We are very grateful that Zambia postponed the ban on the use of Victoria Falls Bridge by commercial trucks. They should let transporters freely choose which route to use instead of forcing them to use an expensive one,” he said.

He added that authorities should also consider a transit point at Batoka for transporters moving between Zambia and Zimbabwe.

According to the Shipping and Forwarding Agents Association of Zimbabwe, nearly 100 haulage trucks daily cross the Victoria Falls Bridge connecting Zambia and Zimbabwe over the Zambezi River. Most of these are 30-tonners carrying copper, coal, coke, cobalt, sulphur and other commodities to destinations that include Angola, Botswana, the DRC, South Africa, Zambia and Zimbabwe.

However, tourism sector stakeholders support the proposal to induce transporters to transit through Kazungula as a means of reducing noise and air pollution in Livingstone and Victoria Falls.

Source: Zambia shelves Kazungula Bridge decision (05/03/21)

Thursday, 25 February 2021

ZimParks Under Pressure

ZimParks Under Pressure

ZimParks Director General comments on financial pressures and causes confusion over Private Concessions in Zambezi National Park.

By Peter Roberts 

The Director-General of the Zimbabwe National Park and Wildlife Authority, Dr Fulton Mangwanya, has revealed some of the financial pressures facing ZimParks during the ongoing global pandemic and caused confusion in comments on proposals for private tourism concessions in the Zambezi National Park, Victoria Falls.

An interview with Dr Mangwanya, The Green Show).

In an interview with Willson Chimwedzi for 'The Green Show' (Heart and Soul Radio) on 17th February, Dr Mangwanya indicated that apart from annual license fees from private concessions, the Authority's income is currently practically zero.

"Yes, indeed this pandemic has caused quite a lot of problems, like our tourism has been badly affected, if we talk of Zimparks, because 80% of our tourists are regional, and as you are talking right now no-one is coming in. The local ones, who are the domestic tourism, we can't talk of much because there is no industry to travel in - everything is down. International tourists definitely are not coming because of the lockdowns, and with the new strain in South Africa it has actually exacerbated the whole issue. We can safely say we are running at zero right now, except from some lease fees that we are getting, and we don't get any support or funding from the fiscus [state]..."

"Right now we've got [only] 10% of staff at work... So I'm working extra hours to make things work, because if I don't provide salaries for my rangers they will turn into poachers, so the best thing is to make sure I get something to pay them and then the Directors are paid later, even a month or two months later, it's ok, so long as we pay those ones on the ground."

Private concessions have become an increasing feature in the country's National Parks in recent years, with sites licensed to tourism operators to develop exclusive safari lodges and camps catering for international tourists. Whilst providing an important element of the country's tourism industry, and revenue for ZimParks (which is entirely self-funded), the tourism operators also often play an important role in local anti-poaching initiatives and community and conservation support projects.

There are, however, increasing pressures against plans to grant a raft of new concessions, after a proposal to develop a popular public campsite in the Zambezi National Park received much local opposition.

See: Campaign to Save SiansimbaGains Momentum.

Speaking last week Dr Mangwanya appeared to confuse the issue, outlining plans to 'upgrade' four sites in the Park 'so that the public can go and actually enjoy' them. 

"What we are doing in Victoria Falls - I have had some complaints - we have got about twenty-five picnic sites along Zambezi River. I am planning to upgrade four of these sites to start with and these are Siansimba, and Kandahar, site four and site ten, so that the public can go and actually enjoy it, because it's supposed to be like that. You know, according to our constitution the public are supposed to enjoy some of these facilities that we have, so I am going to do that by the end of the year, I'll have renovated some of these places, revamped them so that they come and see."

On first impression Dr Mangwanya appears to be saying that these existing four sites will all be refurbished for public use. It is understood, however, that private lodge concessions are still being considered at Siansimba and Kandahar, and that new, alternative public camping sites will be developed nearby to compensate for their loss. Presumably the same is planned at picnic sites four and ten.

If this is the case the Environmental Impact Assessment currently underway for the Siansimba Tented Camp should clearly include the identification and consideration of this new public site in addition to the private development, and the proposal reviewed as a whole. The developments must also be assessed in relation to each other and existing private concessions, and this can only be done will full public disclosure of the current plans and with the implementation of ongoing monitoring and assessment of the impacts of existing tourism developments.

Image showing location of existing public campsite. The proposed lodge development is believed to be 
on the opposite side of the Siansimba stream (right side of image) which joins the Zambezi at this point.

It remains to be seen if the fragile woodland belt which extends along the riverside can sustain the development of further sites, as well as all the extra impacts that come with the development of private tourism camps, without significant degradation of their natural and wildlife value, or if these new alternative sites will be of equal value in terms of scenic location and visitor experience.

Further Information/Links

Facebook (8th January 2021) EIA Stakeholder Consultation For Siansimba Tented Safari Camp - Zambezi National Park.

The Green Show (17th February 2021) The State of Our National Parks, Heart and Soul Radio (Facebook link to video broadcast of show).

Victoria Falls Bits and Blogs (8th February  2021) Zambezi River Scenes Which Inspired Livingstone Under Threat.

Victoria Falls Bits and Blogs (17th February  2021) Campaign to Save SiansimbaGains Momentum.

Friday, 19 February 2021

Bad roads negatively impact on domestic tourism

 Leonard Ncube, Victoria Falls Reporter

THE tourism industry has implored the Government to urgently fix the country’s major roads that have been damaged by heavy rains to ensure smooth domestic travel.

A majority of the country’s roads are heavily damaged with motorists incurring huge repair costs due to potholes while some bridges on gravel roads have been washed away, leaving some communities isolated.

The Bulawayo-Victoria Falls Road, a key tourism link, is also in a deplorable state — filled with potholes especially on a stretch of 30km either side of Hwange.

The stretch between Gwayi River and Lupane, as well as between St Luke’s and Mbembesi River and around Insuza are also affected.

There have also been calls to rehabilitate Cross Dete-Binga/Mlibizi Road, which also links Victoria Falls with those coming off the houseboats from Kariba. Bulawayo-Tsholotsho Road, which also connects to the Hwange National Park from the northern direction, is equally in a deplorable state.

Some motorists have expressed concern saying the road is now a ‘death trap’ and driving along it is a nightmare.

Government recently declared the country’s roads a state of disaster with efforts being made to mobilise resources to rehabilitate the road network.

Players in the tourism industry say a bad road network negates efforts to revive tourism and have called for urgent rehabilitation of all key roads.

Hospitality Association of Zimbabwe (HAZ) Victoria Falls chapter chair Mr Anald Musonza said trafficable roads are key in the absence of air transport.

“The road network in Zimbabwe is so important given our drive for domestic tourism and the lack of reliable air services to various tourist destinations in Zimbabwe,” he said.

“More and more of our domestic tourists are self-drives and we need a good road network that allows people to move in an accident-free fashion.

“The current state of our roads begs for urgent attention and redress as we have most of our roads being potholed.

The Bulawayo-Victoria Falls road is super-important to this destination Victoria Falls as it links us to the rest of the country where our local tourists come from. Our appeal as an industry is to have all our major road networks fixed including the one linking our Matabeleland North capital Lupane to Midlands as it gives a shorter link to Victoria Falls.”

The Bulawayo-Victoria Falls Road leads to the country’ prime tourism destination and connects Botswana, Zambia, Namibia and South Africa through Bulawayo. It is widely used by self-drives visiting the destination. Mr Musonza said in the absence of airline services for tourist movement, a good road network becomes a major enabler of free access and movement of tourists.

He said with the current Covids-19 imposed travel restrictions and closed borders, internal human movement should be encouraged by availing a good road network system. — @ncubeleon

Source: Bad roads negatively impact on domestic tourism (19/02/21)