Footsteps Through Time

Footsteps Through Time
A History of Travel and Tourism to the Victoria Falls - www.zambezibookcompany.com

Monday, 18 September 2017

Boom for Vic Falls tourism, room occupancy up

Zimbabwe’s premier tourist resort, Victoria Falls, has this year, witnessed a tourism boom equivalent to a record last experienced in 1999, Africa Albida Tourism, chief executive, Ross Kennedy has said.
In a statement last week, Kennedy, who heads a leading hospitality group, said room occupancies in Victoria Falls for the six months ended June 30, 2017 had seen an increase of 25,4% over the same period in 2016.
This, he said, equates to close to 19 000 additional rooms sold over that period by 10 hotels, which together have 1 125 rooms and measure arrivals monthly.
Kennedy said the feedback in Victoria Falls shows that this same trend is also evident across the rest of the sector, which represents a further 700 rooms.
“The trend of growth in tourism arrivals into Victoria Falls is ongoing, with the forward booking profile getting longer,” he said.
“People are booking much further in advance than they were two years ago.
“We have bookings well into 2019, including big international incentive travel groups, a market that has been largely absent since 1999.”
Kennedy said a number of the hotels in Victoria Falls would record occupancies of 90% and higher between August and November.
“This has not been seen since the peak tourist arrival years of 1994 to 1999,” he said.
“The positive downstream impact on national and regional tourism, plus the economy is significant.
“The increased tourism levy revenue stream will enable the Zimbabwe Tourism Authority to further enhance their marketing and branding of our world class destinations.”
Kennedy further said the positive impact of the rising numbers on the local economy and the tourism sector was substantial.
BA Comair international sales and interline manager, Margaret Kinsman said the airline was operating larger aircraft on the Johannesburg to Victoria Falls route and over the coming months it would be offering more daily flights on several days of the week.
“Between July and November 2017, three additional flights per week have been scheduled on Wednesdays, Fridays and Sundays, using a B737-400, which accommodates 150 passengers,” she said.
“The airline is also licensed to operate these three additional services per week year-round as required, should there be demand.”
South African Airways operates an Airbus A330-200 with 222 seats, which is 88 seats more than their previous aircraft capacity.
In addition, Victoria Falls has new airlines servicing the destination, namely Ethiopian Airways and Kenya Airways, linking Victoria Falls to East Africa.

Sunday, 3 September 2017

Why don't many British tourists visit Victoria Falls?

In August 1934, a memorial statue to one of Britain's greatest national heroes, David Livingstone, was unveiled alongside his beloved Victoria Falls.
A thousand people attended the grand ceremony, including British government dignitaries and hundreds of Africans, some of whom had travelled for days to honour him.
Fully 60 years after the explorer's death, Livingstone's almost mythical status was undiminished.
A Christian missionary who risked his life many times to expose - and ultimately end - the evils of the East African slave trade, he introduced the world to one of its natural wonders, and was the first person ever to walk across Africa from coast to coast, exploring and mapping the geography of the "dark continent".
Images of the life-sized bronze on the banks of the Zambezi were broadcast across the British Empire, countless school children thrilling to the stories of Livingstone's adventures and achievements.
Today, visitors still file past the statue on their way to experience the humbling majesty of the Zambezi as it plunges over the towering First Gorge.
But the British are notable by their absence.

Profound irony

Official figures from the Zimbabwe Tourism Ministry show that, since the turn of the millennium, the statue has rarely heard an accent from the United Kingdom, never mind voices from Livingstone's native Scotland.
In 2015, there were more Italian visitors than Britons, about twice as many Australians and French, three times as many Germans and seven times the number of Americans.
The irony is profound.
It was Livingstone's dream to turn Victoria Falls into a tourist attraction, his journals imagining paddle-steamers bringing visitors from the mouth of the Zambezi to witness their splendour.
There is a similar Britain-shaped hole at the quintessentially English Victoria Falls Hotel, where the flying boat from Southampton once stopped on its way to the Cape.
Pink gins are sipped on the lawns overlooking the Darlington-built steel bridge that has spanned the Zambezi gorge since 1905.
Pictures of British kings and queens adorn the walls, alongside animal heads and zebra skins.
The current Queen stayed at the hotel in 1947.

Uncomfortable relationship

A framed photograph shows the then-Princess Elizabeth with her father, George VI, watching the mighty Zambezi tumble over the precipice, an image that inspired huge numbers of British tourists to follow the Royals to the falls.
But in recent years, that flood has become a trickle.
Why? Robert Mugabe. Livingstone's statue stands on what is now Zimbabwean soil, and Britain has an uncomfortable relationship with its former colony.
Most UK tourists visit what locals call Mosi-oa-Tunya (The Smoke That Thunders) from the Zambian side, north of the river, where consciences may feel less troubled.
Limited sanctions remain in place against Zimbabwe, although these are mostly to do with arms dealing and individuals, including Robert and Grace Mugabe. Tourists can travel to the country.
And this corner of Zimbabwe is making a plan to woo the British back.
The border town of Victoria Falls exists only for tourism.

Emergency session

But after President Mugabe began forcibly confiscating land from white farmers in 2000, the country's status as an international pariah saw the number of foreign visitors there dwindle almost to nothing.
A decade later and facing ruin, business leaders in the town met in emergency session.
It was clear the Mugabe government was not in a position to help them.
The economy was in tatters, ravaged by hyperinflation, the national bank had to issue trillion-dollar notes.
Shops were empty and the people haunted by desperate poverty and fear.
The roads had not been maintained, anti-malaria measures had all but been abandoned, the international press painted a picture of a country where white Westerners were treated as the enemy.
What hope of attracting foreign tourists to that?
"If you have a pothole outside your house, there is no point in moaning about it if no-one is going to fix it," says Ross Kennedy, the hotelier behind the crisis meeting.
"We got together and agreed there are times when it is necessary to fix the pothole yourself."
So that's what they did, both metaphorically and literally.
"The town council said it could provide the labour and the trucks. We all chipped in to buy gravel and tar. It was a real town effort - hotel operators, transport operators, activity operators all helped fix the roads," Mr Kennedy says.

Innovative solutions

It was the same strategy with the fight against malaria. The council didn't have the foreign currency to buy the necessary chemicals to spray, so local businesses funded what was required, offsetting the cost against their rates.
They also tackled the security issue. As the owner of a number of local resorts, Mr Kennedy knew his business could never thrive if guests felt unsafe.
"Myself and three other guys in Vic Falls funded around 10 or 12 people to act as tourist police," he says.
Initially sceptical, the government's tourism authority soon decided the friendly uniformed teams were a great way to reassure potential visitors.
"There are many more tourist police now," Mr Kennedy says.
"We pay half, and the tourism authority pays half.
"The local police have become more supportive, and now train the recruits in basic police work and public relations."
The latest plan is for private business to buy new software that would speed up the issuing of visas at the border, reducing the process from three minutes to 30 seconds, ending the long queues that are many tourists' dreary introduction to Zimbabwe.
As a result of these innovative joint ventures, Victoria Falls has managed to insulate itself from many of Zimbabwe's problems.
"We are in a bubble here," says Africa Albida Tourism's Michele Vickery.
"When the state could not be relied upon, the people of this community just looked out for each other. The result is that tourism is picking up again."
The Americans are coming back, both young backpackers and wealthy baby-boomers. Australians, Germans, French and Italians are beginning to arrive again too. The town is much busier. But where are the British?
"Britain is still a bit behind," Mr Kennedy says.
"I think the main reason is the colonial past. There is an element who say, 'There is no way I am spending a dollar in a country that behaves like that, where X, Y or Z is in power,' to which I say, 'I am not your moral compass.'"

Scramble for Africa

The British Embassy has been lobbied by town businesses to push for the inclusion of a paragraph in the UK's official Zimbabwe travel advice, saying that warnings of violence, assaults by security forces, shortages of fuel and water do not apply to Victoria Falls.
But the advice has not changed.
The UK's relationship with Zimbabwe was formalised following the Congress of Berlin in 1885, part of the so-called scramble for Africa.
Western powers sat around a table carving up the continent and claiming territorial rights.
Britain walked away with the keys to exploiting the area it would later call Southern Rhodesia, now Zimbabwe.
The man granted the honour of unveiling David Livingstone's statue on the banks of the Zambezi in 1934 was the explorer's nephew, Howard Moffatt.
A very different personality to his liberal and reforming uncle, Moffatt had just stepped down as prime minister of Southern Rhodesia, having pushed through the Land Apportionment Act of 1930.

Moral ambiguity

The legislation barred African landownership in the British Crown colony, outside special reserves.
The best land was allocated exclusively to white people, farms where the seeds of black grievance and bitterness were sown.
Mr Mugabe's violent seizure of white-owned property 70 years later might be seen by some as the bloody consequence of that colonial arrogance.
The moral ambiguity that lies behind Britain's relationship with Zimbabwe surely helps explain the persistent reluctance of many in this country to risk association with it.
Since 2015, Victoria Falls has had its own international airport with a runway capable of taking the largest passenger aircraft.
The townsfolk have pressed airlines to begin direct flights from Europe, but British carriers have so far not expressed much interest.

Political instability

UK airlines say there are commercial and logistical reasons for not flying directly to the resort at the moment.
It is easy to find reasons not to step upon the troubled lands of Zimbabwe.
At the moment, the country faces an acute cash shortage. cash machines are usually empty, and American dollars - now the legal currency - are so scarce, hawkers beg tourists for their shoes and clothes.
There are concerns that dreaded inflation is returning.
People worry about social and political instability, with elections next year and, at some point, transition to a post-Mugabe Zimbabwe.
But the fundamentals of this beautiful and enchanting country are pretty solid.
The landscape and wildlife are stunning. The climate is benign and the soil fertile. Communities have become resilient and practical.
There are a few straws in the savannah wind. Some British tour operators have recently returned to Zimbabwe, and hoteliers report UK bookings are creeping up, although there is still a long way to go.
Zimbabwe's Tourism Minister Walter Mzembi points out that visitors to Niagara Falls in North America bring in income double that of the whole of Zimbabwe's economy.
"They are spending $30bn [£23bn] whilst Victoria Falls, a natural wonder of a higher magnitude, receives just $1bn," he told the Zimbabwe parliament.
Victoria Falls can shield itself from some of Zimbabwe's contemporary woes.
But the grim countenance of Livingstone's statue, staring resolutely at the great falls, reminds us of the struggle to navigate a path through the thorny undergrowth of African history.

Friday, 1 September 2017

Tourists continue shunning Zambia due to political unrest

Tourist bookings slump in Zambia, rise for Zim’s Vic Falls Town

The Livingstone Tourism Association says international tourist arrivals have slumped in Zambia due to the state of emergency declared by dictator Edgar Lungu. Meanwhile and because of the stupidity in Zambia, neighbouring Zimbabwe’s Victoria Falls Town is boasting of an increase with advance bookings well into 2019.

LTA chairperson Alexander Mutali revealed that despite it being a peak period, tourists have been cancelling their bookings into Zambia due to the State of Emergency. Mutali also blamed the low international arrivals on the shortage of the univisa stickers at Kenneth Kaunda, Harry Mwaanga Nkumbula international airports, Kazungula and Victoria Falls border posts.

According to African Travel News (ATQ), international tourism arrivals in Victoria Falls Town in Zimbabwe were equivalent to those recorded in 1999.

“Africa Albida Tourism chief executive Ross Kennedy said room occupancies in Victoria Falls for the six months ended June 30, 2017 had seen an increase of 25.4 per cent over the same period in 2016. This, he said, equates to close to 19,000 additional rooms sold over that period by 10 hotels, which together have 1,125 rooms and measure arrivals monthly,” ATQ stated.

It quoted Kennedy saying the feedback in Victoria Falls showed that this same trend was also evident across the rest of the sector, which represents a further 700 rooms.

“People are booking much further in advance than they were two years ago. We have bookings well into 2019, including big international incentive travel groups, a market that has been largely absent since 1999,” ATQ stated.

It further added that Kennedy predicts that a number of hotels in Victoria Falls would record occupancies of 90 per cent and higher between August and November.

“This has not been seen since the peak tourist arrival years of 1994 to 1999…the positive downstream impact on national and regional tourism, plus the economy is significant. The increased tourism levy revenue stream will enable the Zimbabwe Tourism Authority to further enhance their marketing and branding of our world class destinations Kennedy said,” stated ATQ.

Source: Tourists continue shunning Zambia for Zim due to state of emergency (31/08/17)

Sunday, 27 August 2017

Prince Harry takes Meghan Markle to Victoria Falls - but will he propose?

PRINCE Harry has sparked speculation he could propose to his girlfriend Meghan Markle as they visit the idyllic Victoria Falls to end their trip to Africa.

The couple have travelled to Livingstone in Zambia after they spent two weeks in Botswana and are finishing at the Victoria Falls, which are one of the seven ‘natural wonders’ of the world. 
Prince Harry, 32, and actress Meghan Markle flew to Botswana three weeks ago on her 36th birthday to enjoy seeing the wildlife and have taken a water safari on the Okavango Delta.
A local source said: “VIPs love to take helicopter tours of the falls. It’s one thing to experience them at ground level, but high up is where you really get to see how spectacular the view is and just how enormous it is.” 
The couple have recently celebrated their one year anniversary, and speculation is rife that this could be the perfect time for the prince to get down on one knee and pop the question. 
Security officers and government officials in Zambia have been ordered to be on 'high alert' for the royal couple. 
Africa is a place close to both Prince Harry and Prince William's hearts. 
The Duke of Cambridge proposed to Kate Middleton during a safari and the brothers spent time in Africa in the wake of their mother's death. 
Prince Harry become patron of the Rhino Conservation Botswana in January. 

Monday, 21 August 2017

Chaos as Zim bans flights

HUNDREDS of people were yesterday stranded after South Africa’s decision to ban Air Zimbabwe flights due to non-payment of permit fees invited a retaliation by Harare, which ground planes operated by the neighbouring country’s national carrier.


Passengers that were booked on South African Airways (SAA) flights out of Harare, Bulawayo and Victoria Falls Airports failed to travel as scheduled.
Zimbabwe also grounded British Airways flights over the same issue.
The South African Civil Aviation Authority on Friday night grounded the Air Zimbabwe flights after the airlines failed to renew its foreign operators’ permit, together with other documents, which must be on board an aircraft at all times.
Yesterday morning, the Civil Aviation Authority of Zimbabwe (Caaz) took similar action against SAA, catching travellers by surprise.
Transport minister Jorum Gumbo admitted Air Zimbabwe bosses had slept on duty and failed to renew the permit, but denied charges that Zimbabwe had retaliated.
“There is what is called operator’s licence, which is renewed periodically,” he said.
“So Air Zimbabwe had not renewed its licence and South Africa Airways had also not renewed its own licence.”
SAA said they could not operate Flight SA025 from Harare to Johannesburg at 7am and Flight SA022 , which was scheduled to depart at 10:45am from Johannesburg to Harare, had also been cancelled.
“Every effort will be made to assist all affected passengers and our recovery plans have been activated,” SAA spokesperson Tlali Tlali said.
“SAA is monitoring the situation and will provide updates on a regular basis and when there are developments.”
In Victoria Falls, passengers had to be shuttled to Zambia’s Livingston Airport where SAA planes were now landing and taking off following the standoff.
Meanwhile, South Africa’s Transport minister Joe Maswanganyi will be meeting all aviation entities from the department to discuss the grounding of the Air Zimbabwe aircraft.
“As a result, the South African Civil Aviation Authority has instructed the operator not to take off until such time that there is full compliance with the applicable South African civil aviation regulations and the requisite international aviation standards as set by the International Civil Aviation Organisation.”
Maswanganyi apologised for inconveniences that might have been caused to passengers, the department said.
“In the same vein, the minister emphasised that civil aviation safety and security is critical, and all licence and permit holders operating into and within the South African airspace need to comply with the applicable international standards, and the South African civil aviation regulations.”
The Friday flight was set to take off for Harare shortly after 6pm, but was cancelled before then.
President Robert Mugabe and his wife Grace are in South Africa for a Sadc summit. Mugabe’s personal airplane, operated by Air Zimbabwe, is not believed to be affected by the cancellation.
DA shadow deputy minister of Finance, Alf Lees however, disagreed saying the grounding flights, between SAA and Air Zimbabwe, seemed to be due to the diplomatic impasse over the assault charges against Grace.
“Now, it seems that tensions between Zimbabwe and South Africa are mounting, leading to airlines being grounded.”
He called on Finance minister Malusi Gigaba to urgently address “these concerning incidents”.
“The silence from our government on the Grace Mugabe matter has been deafening,” he said.
“The reality is that the South African government has completely mishandled this situation, which is now affecting the operations of the national airline.”
A “red-alert” was issued by police in the event that Grace attempted to cross the SA border after she allegedly assaulted a 20-year-old model in a Sandton Hotel on Sunday.
Air Zimbabwe is operated by Mugabe’s son-in-law, Simba Chikore. 

Thursday, 17 August 2017

Vic Falls hotel occupancy 25pc up

HARARE - Hotel operators in Victoria Falls are reporting a better-than-expected half year profit and raising their earnings forecast for the year, helped by a boost in business travel following a recently commissioned $150 million international airport.

This comes after Kenya Airways and Ethiopian Airways in April introduced direct flights to Victoria Falls from Nairobi and Addis Ababa respectively, attracting increased air traffic.

South African Airways introduced its new Airbus A330-300 aircraft on the Johannesburg-Victoria Falls route after the upgrading.

On the other hand, Rwandan Airlines, which introduced the Kigali-Harare direct flights in April and the Turkish Airlines have indicated that they might soon be flying into the newly-refurbished Victoria Falls International Airport.

Ross Kennedy, chief executive of Africa Albida Tourism — a leading Zimbabwean hospitality group — said room occupancies in Victoria Falls for the six months ended June 30 had seen an increase of 25,4 percent over the same period in 2016.

This equates to close to 19 000 additional rooms sold over that period by 10 hotels, which together have 1 125 rooms and measure arrivals monthly.

The feedback in Victoria Falls shows that this same trend is also evident across the rest of the sector, which represents a further 700 rooms.

The positive impact of these rising numbers on the local economy and the tourism sector is substantial, and very welcome after many difficult years, added Kennedy.

Key to the uplift in tourist arrivals is the new Victoria Falls Airport, which is already playing a major role in the tourist town, with the new airlines, new routes and increased flight capacity from existing carriers all adding to the growing momentum that is so clearly evident across the destination.

Margaret Kinsman, BAComair international sales and interline manager, said the airline is operating larger aircraft on the Joburg-Vic Falls route, and over the coming months will be offering double daily flights on several days of the week.

The BAComair daily schedule is operated by a B737-800 aircraft, which accommodates 162 passengers in a business and economy configuration. Between July and November 2017, three additional flights per week have been scheduled on Wednesdays, Fridays and Sundays, using a B737-400 which accommodates 150 passengers. The airline is also licensed to operate these three additional services per week year-round as required, should there be demand, added Kinsman.

South African Airways is operating an Airbus A330-200 with 222 seats, which is 88 seats more than their previous aircraft capacity.

In addition, Ethiopian Airways and Kenya Airways, link Victoria Falls to North and East Africa. Both airlines have their own hubs and networks for better connections and packaging.

Kenya Airways flies from Victoria Falls to Cape Town, creating a much-needed route linking the three iconic African destinations of Cape Town, Victoria Falls and Kilimanjaro.

The latest arrivals into Victoria Falls Airport are SA Airlink, plying the Cape Town to Victoria Falls route six days a week, and Fastjet, which has now added Johannesburg to Victoria Falls three times a week to their schedule.

In the domestic air space, Air Zimbabwe and Fastjet are now both operating seven days a week, which has been a boost for domestic tourism.

According to Kennedy, new businesses are opening across the industry in the region,with new lodges, hotel rooms, restaurants, bars, and new activities, all of which combine to enhance the draw of the destination, which is a hub for Hwange, Matobo Hills, the rest of Zimbabwe and the KAZA (Kavango Zambezi Transfrontier Conservation Area) region.

KAZA, which is made up of five southern African countries, boasts some of the most pristine and diverse wildlife areas left on the planet.

With both Kasane and Livingstone Airports also having been recently upgraded, the three airports can now handle three million passengers per year between them, and so make this hub, the power house of the KAZA region’s tourism growth.

According to Kennedy, forecasts for July to December 2017 show even more growth, with major South Africa-based DMCs reporting high demand for the region for 2018 and 2019.


Source: Vic Falls hotel occupancy 25pc up (16/08/17)

Saturday, 12 August 2017

Victoria Falls applies for city status

Leonard Ncube, Victoria Falls Reporter

THE Victoria Falls Municipality has applied to Government for city status. The local authority was conferred municipal status in 1999.

Upon joining Victoria Falls early this year, Town Clerk Mr Ronnie Dube told The Chronicle that his vision was among others, to reduce the municipality’s spending and transform the resort town into a world class city.

“Part of our priority projects is to help the town attain city status this year,” he said in a recent interview.

Yesterday Mr Dube told The Chronicle that the municipality had applied to Government and was waiting for the Ministry of Local Government, Public Works and National Housing to send a commission.

“We have applied and we are yet to get a response. The Ministry has to send a commission to assess if we meet requirements upon which a recommendation will be made,” said Mr Dube.

He said the municipality fares better than a number of local authorities in the country.
Mr Dube said the resort town boasts of an efficient and reliable water supply as well as provision of serviced land for housing projects.

“We believe we are one of the local authorities that have complied with Government requirements for city status. This is evidenced in that we have just been voted second runner up on water supply and sewer management at the just ended Local Government Investment Conference (LOGIC 2017) hosted by the Urban Councils Association of Zimbabwe (UCAZ) in Harare,” said Mr Dube.

Hwange Local Board was the winner in the category as the two local authorities are implementing Water and Sanitation projects funded by the Industrial Development Bank of Zimbabwe.
Mr Dube said an advert flighted by the local authority on Thursday was in conformity with the application as they call on President Mugabe to exercise his powers in terms of Section 14 of the Urban Councils Act to establish Victoria Falls City.

Last month Victoria Falls commissioned 1 300 serviced high and medium housing stands in a partnership with CBZ and last week launched a $4 million low density project which will see a private developer, Integrated Construction Project, servicing 205 low density and commercial stands in the BB7 project.

As part of its master plan, the municipality will rehabilitate roads, install solar street lighting as well as come up with cost cutting strategies.

The town’s mayor, Councillor Sifiso Mpofu, last week invited industrialists to partner the local authority in developing multi-million dollar projects saying the town is embarking on a robust development drive which will help attain desired world class status. — @ncubeleon

Source: Victoria Falls applies for city status (12/08/17)