Footsteps Through Time

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

Tuesday, 23 January 2018

Confusion as Zimbabwe promises review of elephant exports amidst global condemnation

Three weeks after 31 young elephants were exported, presumedly to China, Zimbabwe's office of the president, Emmerson Mnangagwa, announced the nation would examine its conservation policies.

"In light of the recent export of elephants from Zimbabwe, the government is reviewing conservation decisions of the previous dispensation and formulating a policy to move forward," said Christopher Mutsvangwa, the Chief Advisor to the President.

A media report in the Zimbabwe's Daily News claims that the new president actually went further than a review: the news story says the president fully banned the export of live elephants, as well as the export of rhinoceros, pangolin and lion. 

This unconfirmed information has now been extensively quoted on social media.

However, no official statement from the President's office or any other official Zimbabwean source has confirmed this. Nor could any confirmation of the source of the Daily News article be obtained from the newspaper, who's editor suggested it came from the initial statement. This clearly did not say the practice would be ‘banned', only that conservation policies would be ‘reviewed'.

At least, five other well-informed Zimbabwean sources were unable to corroborate the existence of a ban. Yesterday, the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species (CITES), the body that governs the international export of live elephants, tweeted the Daily News article announcing the ban but John Scanlon, the CITES Secretary General, was also unable to confirm its validity.

For those who are familiar with Zimbabwe politics, contradictory messages aren't entirely out of character. "Whilst I am grateful to read of President Mnangagwa's commitment to preserving Zimbabwe's wildlife, it is clear that there is often a disconnect between the Zimbabwe's government's rhetoric and what happens on the ground," says former Senator David Coltart, based in Bulawayo. "It is time for actions rather than words. We need new policies to be implemented to address the very serious concerns raised by environmentalists…"

Zimbabwe's export of elephants, which has seen almost 100 elephant calves exported from Zimbabwe to Chinese zoos since 2012, is becoming increasingly controversial around the globe. A Care2Petition petition to stop the trade garnered almost 280,000 supporters.

Humane Society International (HSI) submitted a letter last week, co-signed by 33 global conservation groups as well as prominent elephant scientists and biologists urging the Zimbabwean president "to immediately halt the further capture and export of young, wild elephants from Zimbabwe's parks to captive facilities overseas."

The letter referred especially to a recent Guardian exposé which showed undercover footage of the capture process, including graphic video of a 5-year old female elephant being repeatedly hit and kicked in the head by her captors. The letter further noted that the negative ecological and conservation issues of the live elephant trade which was highlighted in a paper presented at a meeting of the Standing Committee of CITES in Geneva.

"Zimbabwe, and any country that might consider selling elephants to zoos, need to alter their stance and instead see the importance of elephants to their country, its environment and its tourism," says Rob Brandford, Executive Director of the David Sheldrick Wildlife Trust in Kenya. "People will travel to a country to witness elephants being elephants, living wild...they will pay for themselves through the tourists they bring." 

Brandford calls the capture of wild elephant inherently cruel: "We must hope, beyond hope, that the new President of Zimbabwe acts for elephants, which means not allowing their capture from the wild, not selling them to zoos and not allowing them to be hunted - none of those acts will save elephants and the trauma it causes to individuals is unimaginable."

The International Union for Conservation of Nature's Species (IUCN) Survival Commission African Elephant Specialist Group opposes the removal of African elephants from the wild for any captive use, declaring that there is no direct benefit for their conservation in the wild. South Africa has banned the capture of elephants from the wild for permanent captivity in 2008.

Damien Mander, Founder of the International Anti-Poaching Foundation (IAPF), believes the recent statement from the office of the President will "begin to shape Zimbabwe's future position and the government's willingness to work with the global community."

"There is still much baggage to be shed," he admits, but "discussions with the new leadership leave me confident that Zimbabwe and its conservation policies are moving in the right direction, step by step."

But, while Mnangagwa hailed Zimbabwe's current progress with regards to the conservation of pangolins and the IAPF's introduction of an all-female anti-poaching unit, he made no further mention whether his government would continue with the capture and export of live wild elephants.

In the meantime, the Chinese foreign ministry replied: "We do not know of such circumstances" when questioned on the last round of export of elephants to China in December last year, including when they arrived and their condition.

 Animal welfare advocates sent photos of an Ethiopian Airways cargo flight which they claimed transported the elephants from Victoria Falls to China.

Flight analysts at FlightAware, a global flight tracking system, identified an Ethiopian Airways Boeing 777 Cargo aircraft, that departed near Victoria Falls on December 29. The aircraft appears to have stopped for fuel near Mumbai India and was tracked until it ultimately arrived near Guangzhou, China.

Requests for comment from Ethiopian Airlines were also not responded to at the time of this writing.

Source: Confusion as Zimbabwe promises review of elephant exports amidst global condemnation (22/01/18)

New Victoria Falls Airport in Zimbabwe overwhelmed by Visitors

The recently-commissioned $150 million Victoria Falls International Airport has insufficient capacity to meet burgeoning air traffic demands, spurring a problem of congestion and delays.
As traffic continues to grow with airlines jostling to introduce direct flights to Victoria Falls, the problem is worsening.
This issue has become a major concern of airport authorities and innovative means of accommodating the ever increasing airline traffic are being sought.
Zimbabwe Immigration Department principal director Clemence Masango said immigration officials were having a torrid time containing traffic as the airport’s arrivals section was too small to contain the deluge of visitors.
The airport was refurbished at a cost of $150 million. The airport’s expansion began in February 2013 and was carried out by a Chinese firm China Jiangsu International Group through a concessionary loan by the China Export and Import Bank. It was commissioned in November 2016.
It had been expected to smoothly handle around 1, 5 million passengers annually up from 500 000, but is now struggling to contain the huge volume of traffic.
This comes after BAComair is now 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. The airline is also licensed to operate these three additional services per week year-round as required, should there be demand.
South African Airways is operating 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 North and East Africa. Both airlines have their own hubs and networks for better connections and packaging.
Kenya Airways fly on 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, offering 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 7 days a week, which has been a boost for domestic tourism.
As a result, tourism players had raised complaints about the airport capacity chaos at a tourism briefing last Friday.
“We are aware of this complaint. We are doing our best with what is there,” Masango said, adding he had engaged the Civil Aviation Authority of Zimbabwe to find a solution.
“I want to point out that although that airport is new, the plan was not drawn yesterday. The plan was done many years ago and when it was developed, I think close to 20 years later, many things were not right.
“That arrival hall, many of you travel around the world, that arrival hall is far from being an arrival hall. In other airports, it’s just a lounge. It cannot take more than 600 passengers.
“And that’s the nature of the volumes we deal with. Three planes if they come fully loaded carrying on average 200 passengers, that’s 600, we can’t sustain. And that’s why you see some passengers spilling onto the tarmac. Then any inconvenience experienced by travellers is naturally directed at immigration.”
Amid the airport chaos, hotel operators in Victoria Falls are reporting better-than-expected profits and raising their earnings forecast for the year, helped by a boost in business travel following the commissioned $150 million international airport.
Victoria Falls hotels’ occupancy levels are ranging in the “high nineties” (90 percent) since government commissioned the $150 million international airport. Apart from the falls, known locally as Mosi-oa-Tunya or “Smoke That Thunders”, Zimbabwe can offer safari hunting, some of Africa’s largest game reserves, scenic resorts and the ancient Great Zimbabwe ruins, one of the most important archeological sites on the continent.
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.

Saturday, 20 January 2018

Zimbabwe Elephant Capture Petition attracts over a Quarter-of-a-Million

The Zimbabwean is watching numbers grow on a Petition that pleads with Zimbabwe to stop capturing elephants for sale to zoos.
“I wish that Zimbabwean officials had spent more dedicated time with me in the field in Hwange, learning about and witnessing the extremely close family bonds that elephants have,” says Sharon Pincott who spent over a decade in Hwange with elephant conservation efforts, in particular monitoring the social structure and population dynamics of the Presidential Elephants of Zimbabwe. “Elephants are such intelligent, sentient beings. The negative impact of ripping young ones from their mothers and families can’t be overstated,” she says.


“Francis Nhema was the wildlife Minister for much of my time with elephants in Zimbabwe. He has spoken publicly in the past about the ‘rude awakening’ he got, while spending time with me in the company of elephants during the 2011 filming of the All the President’s Elephants award-winning international documentary. At that time, Minister Nhema was recorded saying the he ‘met families who are probably more organised than human beings… families that show love, respect – probably better than human beings… families who live according to protocol; to respect’.”
“Please,” Pincott pleads, “let us show our world’s largest land mammals this same respect.”
A Care2 (“You care; we care too”) petition in opposition to the ongoing elephant captures in Zimbabwe has attracted over 260,000 signatures from around Zimbabwe, Africa and the World.
“The petition will be closed off on Monday, 22 January 2018. Relevant documents will then be generated and delivered to President Mnangagwa, Minister Muchinguri in the Environment Ministry and Mr Mangwanya in ZimParks, in the hope that they will now jointly better appreciate just how much damage this practice is doing to elephant families, and to Zimbabwe’s Tourism sector. We ask that they review Zimbabwe’s capture policy with urgency.”
Pincott has taken on the task of ensuring delivery of this petition to the Zimbabwe authorities, and this will happen before the end of this month. You can find the petition at https://www.thepetitionsite.com/115/823/953/zimbabwe-stop-capturing-wild-elephants-and-exporting-them-to-chinese-zoos/
“Those who care about Zimbabwe’s elephants, I urge you to sign it,” says Pincott.

Wednesday, 17 January 2018

Vic Falls safe from cholera

Nothabo Nyathi, Business Reporter

TOURISTS intending to visit Victoria Falls should not fear contracting cholera because operators have put in place the necessary hygienic measures following the outbreak of cholera in neighbouring Zambia last month, an official said.

The country’s prime resort town and neighbouring Livingstone across the Zambezi River in Zambia, share a lot especially in tourism with some clients visiting both towns in a single day.

There have been fears that the waterborne disease which broke out in Lusaka last month, could affect tourist arrivals as well as general business in the two towns.

Association of Safari and Tourism Operators Employers spokesperson Mrs Mercy Ncube assured tourists of their safety saying despite Victoria Falls and Livingstone’s proximity, the disease had not affected business locally since hygiene was priority number one.

“Hygienic measures are practiced as a way of preventing the pandemic. Washing of hands after using restrooms is encouraged at a time like this when our neighbour Zambia is battling with cholera,” she said.

Mrs Ncube said tour operators also acquire foodstuffs from Zambia among other countries and would continue doing so despite the cholera outbreak as they buy from the formal market which was safe.

“As tour operators, we also buy some food items in Zambia but what makes us safe is that we buy from formal businesses that maintain high hygienic standards. We don’t buy from open markets as we realise the risk that we can put our tourists in,” she said.

Mrs Ncube said systems had been put in place to ensure the pandemic is not transmitted across the border.

“If you noticed, the movement of vegetables, fruits and other fresh products across the Victoria Falls border has been temporarily stopped as a way of minimising the risk of importing the disease to Zimbabwe.

“The good thing is that there is no cholera outbreak in Livingstone hence Victoria Falls is safe but we will continue putting precautionary measures considering the free movement of people between the two countries,” she said.

Zambian vendors who cross the border daily to sell their goods on the informal market were stopped by authorities last week although some have been spotted within the Victoria Falls Central Business District raising fears of laxity at the border post.

They sell vegetables, green mealies, tomatoes, onions, mealie-meal among other items which Zimbabweans prefer because they are cheaper than on the local market.

Meanwhile, the Ministry of Health and Child Care officials from Hwange district have held two meetings in Hwange and Victoria Falls to raise awareness on cholera and intensify preparedness as well as activating the Civil Protection Unit in preparation for any eventualities.

Source: Vic Falls safe from cholera (16/01/18)

Zim tourism industry has grown since Mugabe's exit

INTERNATIONAL - Zimbabwe's tourism industry has started to pick up, with arrivals seen growing this year following the exit of former leader Robert Mugabe in November last year, while online booking platform, Airbnb, says visitors booking for accommodation through the application are mostly originating from Johannesburg and London.


The country has dangled a $15 million (R185.22m) incentive facility for the tourism industry, central bank governor John Mangudya said last Friday.

The Hotels Association of Zimbabwe said hotel occupancy levels during the December festive season increased from 85percent in 2016 to about 92percent in 2017.

Traveller risk perceptions of Zimbabwe have worsened over the past few years, owing to poor road infrastructure, police roadblocks and political uncertainty that frequently turned violent.

But following the installation of a new administration in Harare, travel experts and government officials said the situation was now improving.

Zimbabwe’s new administration has extended open arms to travellers to the country in a bid to grow the tourism industry’s contribution to the country’s economic recovery.

“There has been keen interest in Zimbabwe, particularly after the events that took place in November 2017. We have seen growing demand for destinations, mainly in Hwange and, of course, Victoria Falls,” Mlandeli Ndlela, a safari operator with Sikiliza DMC, told Business Report.

Other operators and tour experts say Zimbabwe’s Eastern Highlands have witnessed resurgent tourist arrivals in December and so far in January. Travel across Zimbabwe has become easier, with police roadblocks being whittled down and spot fines being stopped.
Zimbabwe Tourism Minister Prisca Mupfumira said on Friday that “normalcy has returned” to roadblocks.

“We need to have a re-look at our pricing strategies and competitiveness. Why should foreign travellers come to Zimbabwe to view the Victoria Falls from our side, just because we have the best view, and then go to Zambia where accommodation is cheaper - we need to do something as an industry,” Mupfumira said.

Reduce costs

Mangudya said the central bank had put in place a “strategy to reduce costs” through the incentive scheme, which is aimed at “enhancing the competitiveness” of the tourism industry. This comes amid concerns that hotel bookings in resort areas have ballooned to more than $200.

The expensive pricing by the bigger hotels has boosted township tourism in Zimbabwe, with online booking platforms that integrate private residential properties for booking by tourists stepping up their offerings. Domestic tourism has also been on the rise.

One such platform, Airbnb, said: “Guests coming to Zimbabwe (through the application) are coming from Harare, London and Johannesburg the most.”

Tourism operators argue that the costing is a result of foreign currency shortages in the Zimbabwean economy. Mupfumira sees tourist arrivals topping 2.5 million by the end of this year, up from 1.7 million in 2012.

Apart from this, Zimbabwe’s tourism industry has looked an attractive bet and has started to attract bigger and new operators. Great Plains Conservancy has expanded into Zimbabwe, opening three camps in the country’s resort areas such as Mana Pools and the Zambezi National Park.

“Prospects are positive, although we need to invest heavily in marketing destinations, building infrastructure such as roads/rail and adopting a fully open skies policy,” said Ndlela.

Zimbabwe to review its visa regime

Zimbabwe is planning to revise its visa policy to help attract more tourists, trade and investment into the country.

Immigration Department principal Clemence Masango said government is working on measures to abolish visas to that visitors will be able to jet in from any country without any permit complications. 

Zimbabwe has one of the most restrictive visa regimes in Africa after it was ranked number 21 by the Africa Development Bank on the Visa Openness Index out of the 54 countries in the continent.

Source: Zimbabwe revises its visa regime (16/01/18)

Friday, 12 January 2018

ZPI to construct $13m mall in Vic Falls

Tinashe Makichi and Chipo SabetaZimre Property Investments (ZPI) will construct a $13 million shopping mall in Victoria Falls as the company expands its property portfolio. ZPI managing director Edison Muvingi told The Herald Business yesterday that the company is finalising leases with various tenants. He said the contractor is already on site to start the construction of the mall but the official construction is scheduled for January 15, 2018.
“We are finalising leases with various tenants including TM/Pick n Pay and other international food courts and brands. The contractor is already on site to show our commitment that we want this project. We handed over the contractor on site earlier to do the preliminary works and the demolition works that had to be done on the structures we adopted on site.
“There is no shopping mall in Victoria Falls and this is an opportunity for the company as the first movers. This mall will bring a lot of activity in Victoria Falls,” said Mr Muvingi. He said the designs for the mall have been approved and the Environmental Impact Assessment for the project is in place.
“It is going to be a trading centre where parking will be guaranteed and looking at the current situation people are going to Livingstone to shop at Shoprite among other joints and then back to Victoria Falls. So with the big TM Pick n Pay coming, there will be a difference. We hope to have banks and other service providers,” said Mr Muvingi.
The company is anticipating to do the ground breaking ceremony of the project on February 2, 2018. The move has been necessitated by the recent upgrade of the Victoria Falls Airport as an International Airport.
“Since the upgrade of the Airport, there has been an increase of international travellers which is the reason why we are targeting international brands,” he added.
The proposed project will be strategically located at the corner of Livingstone and Pioneer Road, Victoria Falls. The concept is intended to be more than just a shopping centre but a lifestyle centre in Victoria Falls. The shopping mall will have a floor space of around 5 750m2 with a mix of retail, commercial and entertainment activities.
The wide open embracing concept in front of the car park welcomes the public and absorbs them into various commercial units and the design does not only respond to the site boundary limitations but aims at revitalising the culture, bringing trade without distorting the resort town status. ZPI’s parent company, ZHL has aggressively pursued the objective of achieving a market leadership position in its chosen markets.
This desire resulted in the incorporation of Zimre Property Investments (ZPI) on January 27 2003, following the successful disposal of National Real Estate (Private) Limited (NRE). The objective of its incorporation was to harness and co-ordinate group property development activities, and to manage, maintain, develop and grow the group’s property portfolio. ZPI has since expanded the scope of its business to non-group business, both in the private and public sectors.