Footsteps Through Time

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

Tuesday, 31 January 2012

Zimbabwe tourism continues to grow

The investment of US$2.7m in a new luxury room block by Victoria Falls Safari Lodge is but one of many positive indicators that Zimbabwe tourism is on a steady revival path after a faltering past decade. Said Ross Kennedy, Chief Executive of Africa Albida Tourism (AAT), “there was a perceptible momentum in changing fortunes in 2011, backed by hard statistics, and 2012 has seen that pace quicken with “good news” stories coming in a steady stream”. Africa Albida Tourism has put its money where its mouth is by embarking on the construction of an exclusive new 20-room wing, the Victoria Falls Safari Club, and will also spend $300,000 on refashioning the public areas of the existing award-winning lodge.
Kennedy highlighted other good news stories coming out of Zimbabwe:
- A number of industry players in Victoria Falls are also showing their confidence in the industry by undertaking similar projects to cope with the international upswing. The Victoria Falls Airport is being modernised and enlarged and the runway is being lengthened to 4km to cope with bigger aircraft in anticipation of greatly increased numbers. A number of international airlines are reported to be in discussions with Civil Aviation Authority of Zimbabwe (CAAZ) concerning direct long haul access to Victoria Falls.
- Emirates has commenced its five-times-a-week schedule from Dubai to Harare via Lusaka to open up the Middle East to Zimbabwe for the first time and load factors are high.
- The World Tourism Organisation (UNWTO) has enthusiastically endorsed Victoria Falls for its global summit in 2013, expected to draw 3,000 delegates and spouses from 158 countries across an 8-day programme between August 23 and September 02, 2013.
- The African Travel Association (ATA) has followed suit and will stage its conference for up to 600 delegates at Victoria Falls from 18 to 22 May this year.
- A modern conference centre and tourism “plaza” is to be constructed at Victoria Falls to lure international association events and is scheduled to be complete by August 2013.
- South African Airways (SAA) has dramatically increased its capacity to Zimbabwe by 66% by introducing a daily A330-200 flight (222-seats) from Johannesburg to Harare and more seats to Victoria Falls. SAA’s monthly capacity is now touching 70,000 as a sure sign of resurgence for tourism.
- Air Namibia are reported to be launching a four-times-a-week schedule from Windhoek to Harare in April.
- A local airline SolAir has been licensed by CAAZ and is set to announce domestic routes soon using a 90-seater Beechcraft.
It’s still a way off the heady days of 1995 but the New York Times recently rated Zimbabwe as one of three fast-emerging and worthy destinations. “Zimbabwe was once a thriving tourism magnet,” recalled the NYT, “but now the unity government, relative economic stability, brought about by the adoption of American dollars, is generating cautious optimism.”
In 2011 tourism earnings increased by almost 50% to 2.3 million visitors and that renaissance is continuing this year. The Adventure Travel Trade Association (ATTA, USA) a significant global organisation headquartered in America has issued a January 2012 report to its members that shines a positive light on Zimbabwe.
“Should the positive upward trend of international tourists continue then the future of tourism in Zimbabwe in 2012 looks bright,” said ATTA, USA. “The year 2011 showed a marked improvement in fortunes with seven of the main lodges/hotels in Victoria Falls reporting one seven-month period as their best since 1999”.
Kennedy added that these statistics were all the more impressive “because they were not driven by low rates but are rather based on revenue per room available (RevPar) which would be the envy of many regional competitors in the current tough world economic environment.”
In 2011 most hotels in the Victoria Falls region recorded increased occupancies. Arrivals into Victoria Falls grew by 19.6% in 2011 versus 2010, with growth from existing markets, plus increased interest and arrivals from new markets such as Eastern Europe, Middle East and Asia. AAT’s flagship accommodation establishment, Victoria Falls Safari Lodge, had the best July occupancy for 10 years in 2011 at 70%. At the group’s award-winning Boma – Place of Eating restaurant located on the same resort, only July 2007 had better covers with 183 covers per night, and July 2011 delivering 163 covers per night.
Arrivals in other parts of Zimbabwe are also growing. Sharon Stead, Marketing Director and co-owner of The Amalinda Collection reports enthusiastically on Ivory Lodge in Hwange and Camp Amalinda in the Matobo Hills. “Camp Amalinda had a record year in 2011 achieving 75% occupancy, with June 2012 already sitting at 90%! Ivory Lodge, Hwange recorded its best month ever in August 2011 at 87% and 2012 bookings look set to break all previous occupancy records for the Lodge”. Stead added “Together with many other Hwange lodge owners and operators, we are well advanced on the launch of a Hwange destination marketing campaign, to be known as the Herd of Hwange which will be formally launched at Indaba in May. This will help to re-establish Hwange as one of the jewels of Africa’s wildlife sanctuaries”.
With the introduction in 2009 of the American dollar as the base currency and a process of reconciliation currently underway, Zimbabwe is fast becoming a viable and popular holiday destination for tourists. And it’s no surprise – with a wealth of natural treasures, including the magnificent Victoria Falls, luxurious and affordable safari and hotel accommodation all serviced by reputedly the most hospitable people in Africa, Zimbabwe has so much to offer local and international visitors. People, culture, history, monuments, wildlife, art, sport – Zimbabwe has it all!
Over the past three years a relative calm has returned to Zimbabwe’s economy and according to the influential tourism body, World Travel & Tourism Council, Zimbabwe’s tourism economy is set to grow at 9.2% this year, making it the third fastest growing tourism economy in the world. And with political goodwill in place to foster a more stable future for the country, more visitors are predicted to make their way to Zimbabwe, reclaiming the country’s reputation as the pride of Africa.
Zimbabwe tourism continues to grow ()

















VICTORIA FALLS BUNGEE INCIDENT - FOLLOW UP

Go to Victoria Falls have received the following update from Victoria Falls Bungee, in response to the bridge incident on 31 December 2011. This follows the official statement released on 2 January 2012.

We remain in contact with the Australian lady involved in the incident who is recuperating in South Africa where she has received expert medical attention. We are pleased to advise that she has now been released from hospital and although she remains bruised and sore she will shortly be free to return home to Australia.

As a matter of record we wish to highlight her bravery and survival skills, which contributed significantly to her own rescue and her continued positive disposition and strength of character has been an inspiration to us all.

It goes without saying that we deeply regret the incident, which has come as a huge shock to us. Despite the experience of the crew and parameters and procedures, which have successfully guided the operation for 17 years and over 150,000 jumpers, we were unable to prevent this accident. We take this exceptionally seriously and our objective now is to learn from this incident and review every component part of our operation to determine where we can further minimize the risk of bungee jumping from the Victoria Falls Bridge.

To this effect the following preliminary measures have been implemented:

- We have removed all bungee cords from the system, which were made with the same batch of rubber as that used to make the failed cord. These have been retained for further testing.
- An entirely new set of bungee cords have been installed on the system. These have been extensively load tested and inspected thoroughly and we are satisfied that they are safe to jump on.
- The entire bungee system has been thoroughly inspected and checked and we are fully confident that everything is safe to jump on.
- In addition to our normal checks and procedures we have instigated additional daily and intermittent checks on the bungee cords and we are fully satisfied that these checks and procedures are more than sufficient to ensure our clients safety.
- Our own crew are conducting test jumps before the commencement of daily operations and throughout the day.
- Experts in South Africa have been contacted and we expect them to be on site next week to help us with our ongoing investigations as to the cause of the incident.
- The broken cord has been carefully stored and will shortly be sent to South Africa for forensic testing.
- A qualified river guide with first aid certification and necessary safety and recovery equipment will be positioned in the gorge below the bridge.
- In light of the above Victoria Falls Bungee are entirely satisfied that everything humanly possible has been done to ensure the safety of our clients and bungee jumping operations have now recommenced without further incident.

Source: VICTORIA FALLS BUNGEE INCIDENT - FOLLOW UP (Jan 2012)












Thursday, 26 January 2012

Weak cord caused bungee jumping mishap

The batch of rubber used to make the bungee jumping chord that snapped, resulting in the plunging of an Australian tourist, Erin Langworthy, into the Zambezi metres from the Victoria Falls Bridge on New Year’s Eve was weak, it has been revealed.

According to a statement from Mr Clement Mukwasi, Shearwater group public relations manager, the rubber became weaker due to age and use but also as a result of environmental issues like moisture and ultra-violet radiation.

“The forensic investigation indicated that the batch of rubber used to make the cord was weak when compared to new rubber. The assumption is that the rubber became weaker due to age and use but also as a result of environmental issues like moisture and UV degradation,” said Mr Mukwasi.
“Regrettably our inspection process, though in line with international standards and having worked successfully for us for 17 years did not pick up this weakness.”

He said the bungee rubber used in the manufacture of the malfunctioning bungee cord had been supplied by a South African company called Face Adrenalin.

“This was the only time we have ever sourced rubber from Face Adrenalin and it is the only time we have had such an accident. At the end of the day what happened here was equipment failure caused by weak rubber,” said Mr Mukwasi.

“New inspection and testing measures have now been implemented, which address this, and we are very confident that this incident will not be repeated.

“Now that the forensic findings are known to us we are confident that the new measures implemented by ourselves will prevent an incident like this happening again in the future.

“In light of this it is our intention to recommence bungee jumping on Friday, 27 January 2012. The steps we have taken include the daily load testing of the bungee cords to confirm their strength and thorough inspections of the bungee cords after every 75 jumps.”

He said the company, Victoria Falls Bungee, has very well laid down operating procedures and also comply with the Australian and New Zealand Industry Standards on the operation of bungee jumping.
“In terms of client safety we do not only constantly monitor, check and inspect our safety system but we also subject ourselves to bi-annual independent safety audits carried out by an internationally certified South African organisation.”

The investigations were conducted by a South African-based company.

Source: Weak cord caused bungee jumping mishap (25/01/12)

Sunday, 15 January 2012

Australian woman Erin Langworthy survives 111m bungee fall into the Zambezi River

AN Australian tourist survived a 111m fall into a crocodile-infested river after her bungee cord snapped.
Erin Langworthy, 22, plunged into the Zambezi River, which divides Zambia and Zimbabwe, on December 31. The West Australian woman fell headfirst into the river after the jump with Safari Par Excellence.
Describing her survival as a "miracle", she told Channel 9 she blacked out as she hit the water.
"It felt like I had been slapped all over," she said. After hitting the water she started swimming downstream but her bungee cord became snagged on rocks.
"I actually had to swim down to yank the bungee cord out of what it was caught in," she said.
When she made it to rocks, her rescuers rolled her on her back.
"All the water I inhaled meant I couldn't breathe and I made them roll me on to my side and that's when I started coughing up water and blood."
The Safari Par Excellence website says the bungee experience is "111 metres of pure adrenalin!".
"Based on The Victoria Falls Bridge, the Bungi (sic) jump can certainly be classed as the most scenic in the world. Not for the faint hearted!" the website says.
Zambia's Southern Province police commissioner Brenda Muntemba said Ms Langworthy was treated at Victoria Falls clinic in Zimbabwe and evacuated to South Africa.

Saturday, 14 January 2012

Minister bungee-jumps from Victoria Falls to prove it is safe

Zambia's tourism minister bungee-jumped from Victoria Falls to reassure tourists the activity is safe after an Aussie backpacker's rope snapped last week.
Given Lubinda took the plunge after footage of Australian backpacker Erin Langworthy falling into the Zambezi River was shown around the world last week, the Daily Mail reports.
Langworthy survived, despite falling head-first into the rapids when her bungee cord snapped as she leaped from the 111m-high bridge on New Year's Eve.
Mr Lubinda said he remained convinced the accident was a one-off and the attraction was safe.
Speaking after completing the jump yesterday, the Mr Lubinda said "I myself will be engaging the operator on how we can make this exciting tourism event become totally incident-free."
Mr Lubinda's display of confidence in the jump came as its operator confirmed Ms Langworthy's snapped rope had been sent to South Africa to be tested by experts.
Mike Davies, boss of the Safari Par Excellence travel company which reportedly organised her jump, said the incident was a "one off" and added that a full investigation had been launched.
He told New Zimbabwe: "There have been over 150,000 people jumping over the last 17 years without incident. So we are confident in it."
He said a team of experts had been brought in to look at improving safety on the attraction, and added: "We have replaced all the equipment, all the ropes and the elastics in the meantime."
Describing her survival as a "miracle", Ms Langworthy told Channel 9 she blacked out as she hit the water.
"It felt like I had been slapped all over," she said. After hitting the water she started swimming downstream but her bungee cord became snagged on rocks.
"I actually had to swim down to yank the bungee cord out of what it was caught in," she said.
When she made it to rocks, her rescuers rolled her on her back.
"All the water I inhaled meant I couldn't breathe and I made them roll me on to my side and that's when I started coughing up water and blood."
The Safari Par Excellence website says the bungee experience is "111m of pure adrenalin!".
"Based on The Victoria Falls Bridge, the Bungi (sic) jump can certainly be classed as the most scenic in the world. Not for the faint hearted!" the website says.

Friday, 13 January 2012

Victoria Falls Council disconnects water supplies to defaulting hotel

Shop owners at Sopers Arcade have been operating for more than six months without water following the disconnection of supplies by the local authority over unpaid bills.

The move by council comes at a time when its debt recovery is just 2.9 percent when it is owed more than $4 million in unpaid rates and water charges by residents and other stakeholders such as hoteliers.

Sopers Arcade houses clothing boutiques, Internet caf├ęs, bookshops, a restaurant and a fruit and vegetable shop.

Shop owners and their clients have resorted to visiting other complexes like Galleria, Victoria Falls Rest Camp, Innscor complex or any other nearby outlets for the purposes of relieving themselves as the toilets at the arcade have since blocked because of the unavailability of water.

Some also visit the same places to collect drinking and cooking water and as a result, a health hazard is looming.

In an interview yesterday, the acting Town Clerk, Mr Philip Ndlovu, said council had resorted to disconnecting water supplies to force defaulters to own up.

He said the shop owners were given their bills but were not settling the bills.

“Yes water was disconnected at Sopers Arcade and I do not know how they are operating without water.

“In this light we are going to shut down all the shops at the arcade soon to force them to pay their water bills so that water is restored,” he said.

Mr Ndlovu added that the reason for the closure of the premises was mainly due to health concerns.

He added that there were at least 25 shops which dealt with visitors such as tourists everyday that were operating without water.

“It is just a matter of time before there is a disease outbreak at that shopping centre. It is a hive of activity yet they do not want to pay. After closing the premises and if they do not come forward, we will be forced to take legal action against them.”

Meanwhile, the Sprayview Hotel had its water supplies disconnected by the municipality because of a bad debt.

Although the amount owed by the hotel was not readily available yesterday, this paper has it on good authority that the hotel had clients booked during the festive season even though it had water problems.

According to the “reconciliation of figures with ratepayers (commercial)” update, presented at the management committee meeting held on 19 December last year, Elephant Hills resort had also not settled its debt.

“The accountant highlighted that the department was not yet through with the reconciliation but advised as follows: Elephant Hills Hotel — still outstanding, Sprayview Hotel — water supplies were disconnected and no payments were made. The rest of the bad debtors made payment plans and some had started making payments.

“Members agreed that all bad debtors should be handed over for litigation,” reads part of the minutes.

Source: Victoria Falls Council disconnects water supplies to defaulting hotel (11/1/12)

Wednesday, 11 January 2012

Tourists sceptical after bungee jumping mishap

Chronicle visited the bridge on Monday and witnessed that bungee jumping operations have since commenced.

Some tourists jumped while others refused even after paying for the activity mainly because they were not sure about their safety.

Bridge swing, bridge slides and bridge tours that were not affected by the accident continued operating as usual.

While some tourists jumped, some had some reservations because of the snapping of the cord that happened on 31 December.

“After learning of the accident that occurred I cannot help it but desist from jumping today. We are no longer sure of the safety of these cords,” said Mr Martin Attikinson of South Africa.

Meanwhile, Zambia’s Minister of Information, Broadcasting and Tourism, Mr Given Lubinda, was at the bridge on a fact-finding mission on Monday.

Mr Lubinda took the opportunity to take part in the bridge activities such as bridge slide and bridge swing. He took a chance and bungee jumped before bridge sliding to assure tourists and others present that it was still safe to engage in these activities.

Mr Lubinda expressed sadness at the fact that a life could have been lost on 31 December.
In a statement, the Zambezi Bridge Company, which operates the bridge activities, said this was the first incident of its nature in 17 years of operation.

“It goes without saying that we deeply regret the incident, which is the first such incident in 17 years of operations during which time more than 150 000 people have safely jumped from the bridge.

“The exact reason for the bungee cord failure is as yet unknown. We have engaged the necessary safety specialists who will be coming within the coming week to investigate the cause.

“We are treating this incident seriously and our aim now is to learn what we can from this and apply that knowledge so as to ensure that there is no reoccurrence,” reads part of the statement.

The statement further stated that preliminary measures that include removing all bungee cords from the system, which were made with the same batch of rubber as that used to make the failed cord, had been implemented.

“An entirely new set of bungee cords has been installed on the system. These have been extensively load tested and inspected thoroughly and we are satisfied that they are safe to jump on.

“The entire bungee system has been thoroughly inspected and checked and we are confident that everything is safe to jump on. In addition to our normal checks and procedures we have instigated additional daily and intermittent checks on the bungee cords and we are fully satisfied that these checks and procedures are more than sufficient to ensure our clients’ safety.

“Our own crew is conducting test jumps before the commencement of daily operations and throughout the day. Experts in South Africa have been contacted and we expect them to be on site next week to help us with our ongoing investigations as to the cause of the incident.”

Officer Commanding Victoria Falls police district, Chief Superintendent Jairos Chiona confirmed the incident saying that it took place on 31 December at around 5:30 pm. “A 22-year-old Australian backpacker, Ms Erin Langworth, fell from the Victoria Falls Bridge, 111m above the river on the border of Zimbabwe and Zambia. We attended the scene as the police because she managed to swim to the Zimbabwean side of the river. We, however, handed over the matter to the Zambia police since she was staying in Zambia and had been booked by a Zambian company to do bungee jumping.

“The bungee machines are on the Zambian side and therefore we treat the matter as having occurred in Zambia,” he said.

Chief Supt Chiona said after the snapping of the rope, Ms Langworth was sent plunging into the rapids below and was forced to swim through the rapids with her feet still tied together.

“The bridge crew and a local medical response team then rescued her. She sustained relatively minor injuries, mostly bruising and has no broken bones. The cause of the incident is being thoroughly investigated,” he said.

Source: Tourists sceptical after bungee jumping mishap (10/01/12)