Wednesday, 23 December 2015

Victoria Falls tourist arrivals slump

(Zimbabwe) Tourist arrivals at Zimbabwe’s prime resort, Victoria Falls have plunged to below 85% on average in 2015 compared to last year’s numbers due to the introduction of the value added tax (VAT) and depreciation of regional currencies, an official has said.

Employers’ Association of Tourism and Safari Operators president, Clement Mukwasi, told NewsDay that tourist arrivals in Victoria Falls were expected to fall to below 85% compared to last year in the same period. “We are expecting to achieve below 85% of last year’s figures on average,” Mukwasi, who is an executive of the Shearwater Adventures Group, said. He said the numbers of tourist arrivals were declining as regional currencies were weaker, making Zimbabwe more expensive compared to its neighbours.

“You will find out that tourists from these countries, such as South Africa, prefer to go to countries with weaker currencies than theirs,” he said.

Tourism players are still crying foul over the introduction of VAT on foreign tourists’ payments for accommodation and tourism-related services.

The move has been described as “not intelligent” by Tourism minister Walter Mzembi, as it makes the country an expensive destination.

The industry is also on the recovery path, following the Ebola virus outbreak in West Africa last year, which saw Zimbabwe losing business worth $6 million in 2014, according to the Zimbabwe Tourism Authority.

According to a report by the Zimbabwe Tourism Authority (ZTA), Zimbabwe’s overall tourist arrivals were at 930 276 in the first six months of 2015, compared to 876 163 registered in the corresponding period last year boosted by mainly South African visitors.

Mukwasi remained optimistic that next year would be better than 2015, as they had introduced a number of measures to keep the industry moving such, as three-tier approach system.

Meanwhile, Mukwasi commended the move by the government to declare Victoria Falls a tourism special economic zone, as it would have positive effects in addressing liquidity challenges in the country and revives the financial sector.

He said the declaration would facilitate entry of new players bringing competitiveness into the industry. Mukwasi said it was not only the tourism sector that would benefit from such a move, but also some players in the banking sector.

Addressing delegates at the just-ended Local Government Economic Development Forum 2015 in Bulawayo on Wednesday, ZTA chief executive officer, Karikoga Kaseke said Victoria Falls needed about 1 000 more rooms by 2020.

He said the country has become a transit route, as last year about 600 000 tourists passed through Zimbabwe to South Africa.

Kaseke urged the government to build a mall in Victoria Falls to make it a shopping destination for the Sadc region.

High hopes for Victoria Falls airport

By: Xu Lingui, Gretinah Machingura

Harare – As the sun sets on the Zambezi river near the tourist town of Victoria Falls, the bustle of a popular arts market melts away with the African heat.
Hidden in the upper floor of the market, the “Nam Took” Thai restaurant was lit up with colourful lanterns.
With tables set, Madam Toy, owner and chef, walked into the kitchen, tossing out the spices she brought from Bangkok to prepare an authentic Thai cuisine for Asian tourists far from their homes.
Toy had previously run a successful Thai take-away in the Zimbabwean capital Harare, but she decided to rent this spacious property a year ago to cash in on an anticipated tourism boom surrounding the Victoria Falls, Africa’s most famous waterfall, which is on par with Niagara in North America and Iguazu in South America.
“The previous tenant rented this place for three months.
“Business was not good, and he left,” Toy said.
“But I say I will hold on and wait.”
The completion this month of an expanded airport in the town after two and a half years of construction is a piece of good news Toy has long been waiting for.
With a $150 million (R2.2-billion) soft loan from the Export-Import Bank of China, the airport has been expanded to include a 4 000m runway, a new terminal with air bridges, and spacious aircraft slots, said Zhang Xinbin, a manager of the contractor China Jiangsu International Economic and Technical Co-operation Group.
“People were not coming to the Victoria Falls because it was simply too difficult to get here,” Zhang said.
“But now, as the airport can accommodate most long-haul, wide-body aircraft, tourists will be on their way.”
David Chawota, head of the Civil Aviation Authority of Zimbabwe (CAAZ), said the airport’s capacity to handle passenger flows has tripled to 1.5 million a year after the expansion.
“It can accommodate flights from anywhere in the world. It is now possible for direct connections between Victoria Falls and our key tourism source markets,” Chawota said.
Straddling Zambia and Zimbabwe, the Victoria Falls has the world’s widest white water curtain of 1.7km, surpassing both Niagara and Iguazu (82m). Its height at the centre is 108m, twice the height of Niagara (51m).
Despite its charm, the tourism figures do not look good.
According to Zimbabwe Tourism Authority, foreign visitors to the country totalled 930 276 in the first half of 2015, of whom 87 percent were from the African continent.
For Victoria Falls in particular, the number of visitors stands at about 15 000 annually, compared with the 1 million visitors Niagara Falls attracts every year.
Zimbabwean Tourism Minister Walter Mzembi complained that while Niagara generated $30bn of tourism income every year, Victoria Falls brings in less than $1bn.
Poor accessibility is often cited as one of the causes that prevent foreign tourists from visiting.
Due to its limited capacity, the current Victoria Falls airport serves only two international routes – one to Joburg and the other to the Namibian capital Windhoek.
Zimbabwe once enjoyed the status as the regional air hub in the 1990s, at which time Harare International Airport served 46 international flights.
During the past decade, however, the aviation and tourism sectors slid to collapse as the economy went into free fall, and Western sanctions have only exacerbated the situation.
As a result, some tourists crossed Victoria Falls off their “to-visit” list, while others chose to see the falls on the bordering Zambian side.
The influx of foreign tourists transformed the former textile and trade port of Livingstone into a competitive rival to Victoria Falls town, making the overhaul of Zimbabwe’s tourism sector urgent.
As the Falls ranks as the top tourist destination not only in Zimbabwe, but also in the region, the expectation for the completion of the airport expansion is high.
“The project makes Victoria Falls a very important centre for tourism development and growth in the southern African region,” said Paul Matamisa, chief executive of Zimbabwe’s Council for Tourism.
Matamisa said the industry hoped the Zimbabwean government would take the opportunity to advertise the airport to the international community and lure more airlines from major tourist destinations.
In his opinion, diverting passengers to the newly-expanded airport would not only ease the pressure on regional air hubs like the “oversaturated” OR Tambo International Airport in Joburg, but also benefit other neighbouring countries like Zambia, whose air transport infrastructure still lags behind.
It is not yet clear which airline will launch the first long-distance route to Victoria Falls, but Qatari Ambassador to Zimbabwe Salem al-Jaber said last month that negotiations were at an advanced stage.
With the expanded airport in place, Mzembi said his government would push for the opening of skies, relaxation of visas, and the upgrade of lodging and entertainment facilities to draw more arrivals in an ambitious bid to grow tourism into a $5bn industry by 2020.
Acknowledging that China has become the world’s top outbound tourist market with more than 100 million people travelling abroad last year, Mzembi told local media recently that the cabinet had reached an agreement on granting visas on arrival to Chinese nationals.
Official figures show that Zimbabwe has been receiving about 3 800 to 5 500 Chinese tourists a year. In the first half of 2015, 4 000 nationals visited Zimbabwe on tourist visas, many of whom, however, were believed to have landed just in the capital for business or work.
For Toy, a possible surge of Chinese tourists means another piece of good news for her Thai restaurant, which is the only one serving authentic oriental food in town.
“I know for sure Chinese tourists will come to my restaurant.
“As east Asians, our stomach is more used to steamed rice,” she said with a broad smile, adding with her accented Mandarin that she serves the Chinese herbal tea “Jiaogulan” as well.

Wednesday, 16 December 2015

Green Tourism unveils new initiative in Zimbabwe

Green Tourism unveils new initiative in Zimbabwe

A partnership with, Zimbabwe Tourism Authority and Environment Africa sees the  a pilot project launched to introduce Green Tourism to Zimbabwe.

15-20 hotels will be selected for the pilot from the Victoria Falls area including Hwange National Park and Livingstone, Zambia. Following awareness training in December 2015 the hotels will be assessed in February 2016 for their awards.

These businesses will become the Founding Members of Green Tourism in Africa, they are: Cresta Sprayview HotelPioneers CampThe Victoria Falls HotelVictoria Falls Safari LodgeVintage Canvas & Camping andWild Horizons The Elephant Camp.

The memorandum of understanding agreed by the partnership entails a commitment to:
  • Help tourism businesses become more sustainable
  • Develop minimum Green Tourism standards for integration into a national quality assurance scheme
  • Establish a Green Tourism awards scheme for Zimbabwe
  • Identify the leading practitioners and supporters and develop a framework for mutual cooperation
  • Mobilise resources through partnerships with interested stakeholders
  • Promote awareness in the tourism industry of green tourism ethics and practices and disseminate them
Zimbabwe tourism businesses will get: awards based on their  performance  and achievements.

They will also get advice and assistance from qualified, trained environmental auditors, who will, amongst other things, help businesses identify cost savings and marketing opportunities.

Subject to a successful pilot, the project will be expanded to help and empower other businesses throughout the area.

Source: Green Tourism unveils new initiative in Zimbabwe

Tuesday, December 8, 2015

Monday, 14 December 2015

Vic Falls council provides stands to homeseekers

Victoria Falls Municipality, which has a housing backlog of about 10 000, is selling stands for as much as $50 000 to prospective home owners.
The development is part of the “Beneficiary Pays Scheme” initiative.
Targeted beneficiaries are drawn from people on the waiting list and those with financial potential to build houses.
In a notice, town clerk, Christopher Dube said the value of stands ranged from $32 000 to $50 000. Sizes range between 2 000 square meters to 4 000 square meters at Aerodrome low density.
“Beneficiaries will be required to pay a third of the total cost of their stand or a minimum of $10 500, as initial deposit.
The remaining balance shall be payable over a period of 12 months,” he said. According to the notice, preference will be given to people with offer letters from the Beneficiary Pays Scheme initiative and “members of the public with demonstrated capacity to acquire and develop”.
In August, the local authority said it would provide close to 11 000 housing stands located between Mkhosana and Chinotimba suburbs along the Bulawayo-Victoria Falls main road and along Kazungula-Victoria Falls road.
The place had over the years been reserved as an animal corridor, with no development allowed, but high demand for housing in the resort town necessitated the development.
The buffer zone is the same area that has been invaded by open space churches that have sprouted in the resort town with the local authority now seeking to ban them for defiling the environment.

Tuesday, 8 December 2015

New Victoria Falls International Airport terminal opens

A brand new Victoria Falls International Airport terminal was opened to passengers on Wednesday, 2 December.
Although the state-of-the-art $150 million Victoria Falls International Airport will only be officially opened on Sunday, 13 December, David Chawota for the Civil Aviation Authority of Zimbabwe (CAAZ) confirmed that the airport was operating recently, All Africa reports.

Chawota was speaking at the International Civil Aviation Day celebrations in Harare on Friday, 4 December.
The airport expansion was funded by the China Exim Bank, All Africa reports.
Its face-lift included upgrading the domestic terminal building, a new 4km runway, the new international terminal and the construction of a new fire station and new control tower. 
Chawota says the CAAZ's vision is for the Victoria Falls International Airport to become a gateway to Central and Southern Africa, boosting tourism. He hopes for the regional hub to become offer world-class aviation services by the end of 2020.

According to Airport Manager Ronnie Masawi, the new terminal can accommodate up to 1.5 million passengers a year, Tourism Update reports. Masawi said Air Zimbabwe, SAA, BA Comair, flyafrica and fastjet were currently operating to the airport, while Qatar airlines are also looking into launching flights to the airport.

Batoka Gorge HydroElectric Scheme - ESIA

Stakeholders who registered their interest in the Batoka Gorge HES project will have received the following announcement by email:


The Zambezi River Authority (ZRA) is a statutory organization equally owned by the Governments of Zambia and Zimbabwe. ZRA has been appointed by the Governments of Zambia and Zimbabwe as the implementing agency for the development of the Batoka Hydro Electric Scheme (BHES). The proposed HES will be situated approximately 47km downstream of the Victoria Falls. In Zimbabwe, it falls within the province of Matabeleland North and in the Hwange Rural District. In Zambia, it falls in the Southern Province, covering Kazungula, Livingstone, Zimba, Choma and Kalomo Districts.

Environmental and Social Impact Assessment (ESIA)

As part of the statutory requirements in Zambia and Zimbabwe, before development of the project commences, an Environmental and Social Impact Assessment (ESIA) must be completed and environmental authorization granted for the project by both the Zambian and Zimbabwean regulatory authorities. The ESIA will determine and assess the social and environmental impacts that may result from the proposed scheme and will identify ways to manage these impacts through the development of appropriate mitigation strategies.

The ESIA will be undertaken in alignment with the legislation of both countries, as well as international good practice guidelines such as the IFC’s Performance Standards. The ZRA has commissioned Environmental Resources Management (ERM) and its local partners (Kaizen Consulting International in Zambia and Black Crystal in Zimbabwe) as the Project Consultants to undertake the ESIA.

The following documents are currently available for public review:

·   Draft Scoping Report (located in libraries and website as detailed below);
·   Non-Technical Summary of the Scoping Report (available electronically on request);
·   Comments and Response Report (included in the Draft Scoping Report and available electronically on request); and
·   Grievance Mechanism (included in the Draft Scoping Report and available electronically on request)

Our website for the retrieval of the full Scoping Report is: and public places where hard copies of reports have been made available are:

-        Hwange Rural District Council Office
-        District Administrators Office in Hwange
-        Jambezi Clinic
-        Chisuma clinic 
-        Matebeleland North Provincial Administrators Office
-        Victoria Falls Municipal Offices
-        Environment Africa Office Victoria Falls
-        Black Crystal’s Office in Harare (see address below)

-        Livingstone City Council
-        Livingstone District Commissioner’s Office
-        Kazungula District Council
-        Kazungula District Commissioner’s Office
-        Lusaka Kaizen Consulting Office
-        District Commissioners offices in Zimba, Kalomo and Choma
-        District Council Offices in Zimba, Kalomo and Choma
-        National Assembly Offices Zimba, Kalomo and Choma
-        Chiefs Palaces (Sipatunyana, Simwatachela & Chikanta)

We are keen to hear your comments and concerns about the Project The comment period runs from 4th December 2015 and 22nd January 2016, after which:

·   comments received will be forwarded to the regulatory authorities; the Environmental Management Agency of Zimbabwe (EMA) and the Zambia Environmental Management Agency (ZEMA) for their further attention;
·   the scope of work for the assessment phase of the Project will be modified; and
·   the Comments and Response Report (CRR) will be updated.  The current CRR (also enclosed) records all the comments we have received to date on the Project, and provides responses to these. 

Please send through any comments you may have by 22nd January 2016 via any of the contact means below.

Black Crystal Consulting (Zimbabwe)
1 Fairbairn Drive, Mt Pleasant Harare,  Zimbabwe

Kaizen Consulting International (Zambia),
+260(0) 977-758-591
Suite 3, Floor 21st, Findeco House, Cairo Road, P.O. Box 33526, Lusaka, Zambia

Environmental  Resources Management

New airport development to change the face of Victoria Falls

From WildZambezi November 2015 Newsletter

The new international airport at Victoria Falls is now open, and set to bring huge changes to the resort town, positioning the area as a tourism hub for the SADC region. Negotiations are already underway for several large international airlines to fly in directly.

Zimbabwe’s Minister of Tourism, The Hon Walter Mzembi told an Investment Tourism Summit in South Africa recently that “The time has come to ‘modernise’ the Victoria Falls to attract a younger generation traveller to the World Heritage Site.”  

According to Mzembi the plans include an integrated tourism resort in Victoria Falls, and development of the world’s first ever ‘eco-Disneyland’. On the cards are an international convention centre, hotels, shopping malls, presidential villas and a medical tourism park centre. 

We want to establish a big international convention centre, which must seat 10 000 delegates,” said Mzembi. He stressed, however, that the development would not desecrate the World Heritage status of the Victoria Falls in any way and that the development would be outside the perimeter. The Victoria Falls will remain as virgin as when they were first discovered in the 1800s.”

The Zimbabwean government is also apparently looking into developing an international finance centre, allowing people to do their offshore banking in Victoria Falls, as opposed to Mauritius or Hong Kong, according to Mzembi.  He believes that these developments will also considerably increase the length of stay in the resort town from the current two to three nights to seven-night stays. 

Prime land near the Victoria Falls has been set aside and made available for the development of these projects.  But, the Zimbabwe government is still looking for private investors to make them a reality.  There is also some concern within the wider tourism industry as to whether or not these plans are appropriate for Victoria Falls.  Some believe it will detract from the Falls’ natural beauty, wildlife and scenery, which tourists come to Africa to experience.

Monday, 30 November 2015

Govt declares Vic Falls Tourism Special Economic Zone

ZIMBABWE’S prime resort town of Victoria Falls has been declared a Tourism Special Economic Zone (TEZ), a development expected to spur growth in tourist arrivals and create employment for locals, Finance minister Patrick Chinamasa has said.
Presenting the 2016 National Budget in Parliament on Thursday, Chinamasa said the conferment of Victoria Falls as a TEZ International Financial Centre should be followed up with the necessary investments for the economy to realise the tourism potential arising out of this.
“Already, the government has availed 274 hectares of land to a special purpose vehicle, Mosi-Oa-Tunya Development Company, incorporated in March 2012 through the Ministry of Tourism and Hospitality to facilitate the implementation of this concept,” he said.
“This project should leverage on the various tourism products already in existence, which include, among others, leisure, business, conferences, financial, medical, sports, religious, cultural and education.”
Chinamasa indicated that tourism products required different facilities, hence the proposed TEZ should be designed in a manner that meets the different interests of these customer groups.
“The project should bring immense benefits through expected growth in tourism arrivals, increase in tourism-generated income and employment creation across the value chain,” Chinamasa said.
Accordingly, Chinamasa said, drawing from international best practices, the necessary incentives and dispensations in the areas of taxation, duty, liberal visa regimes and exchange control regulations would be availed.
Business lobby groups have been pushing the government to declare Bulawayo and Victoria Falls special economic zones to attract investment to fund the recovery of industry.
SEZs development, according to Bulawayo-based policy analyst Butler Tambo, may be used as an economic laboratory by providing opportunities to experiment on best practice economic policies that have not been tried in a particular country, development of backward and forward linkage industries through SEZs linkages as well as linkages with local firms for raw materials, intermediate inputs and capital equipment.

Saturday, 28 November 2015

Vic Falls set to go from a charming town to major hub

By Ross Kennedy

What happens when a new tourism hub is born? A leading and interesting question, no doubt. That new tourism hub is Victoria Falls and the catalyst for that birth is, of course, the Victoria Falls International Airport, scheduled to become operational in early December 2015.
While Victoria Falls, not only the world’s largest waterfall, but also one of the Seven Natural Wonders of the World and a Unesco World Heritage Site, has long been on many a traveller’s bucket list, it is about to become a whole lot easier to get to. Direct flights to Victoria Falls from many corners of the globe will be a total game changer. Victoria Falls will grow from a charming little tourism town into a major tourism hub for the region, while maintaining its charm and attraction.
Why the hub status one may ask? The answer is very clear – look at a map of southern Africa and put a compass on Victoria Falls, and you will see clearly that it is right at the centre of the finest tourism and wildlife destinations and countries on the planet. Draw concentric circles from Victoria Falls out to 500km, 600km or 700km and note what amazing destinations and experiences, cultures and people, wildlife, flora and fauna abound! Victoria Falls is set to become a gateway from which to explore the entire region.
With five or six international air carriers looking closely and in talks with the Civil Aviation Authority of Zimbabwe and Government about routes to Victoria Falls, one can but imagine the growth potential for tourism to the region in the coming few years. Throw in the likes of the expansion of the KAZA Univisa to include neighbouring countries, coupled with the easing of visa regulations in South Africa and Zimbabwe and it is easy to see how and why Victoria Falls will attain this hub status in coming years.
Some may believe Victoria Falls is better left as it is while others will embrace the counter argument that “growth is necessary and good”.  But what matters is that growth is inevitable, so both the public and the private sector must be responsible, accountable and caring in managing such expansion. As we know, tourism is a key pillar of many African economies, a major employer and contributor to communities and the fiscus, and so responsible growth should be embraced.
Let’s all ‘watch this space’ and play a part in contributing to our wonderful industry, which showcases our continent extremely positively.

Tuesday, 3 November 2015

Zimbabwe journalists detained over elephant poaching story

HARARE: Zimbabwean police have arrested journalists at a state newspaper over a story implicating police officers and parks authorities in the poisoning of at least 60 elephants, a media complaints watchdog said Tuesday.

“We confirm the arrest of three journalists and we condemn the arrest,” Loughty Dube, director of the Voluntary Media Council of Zimbabwe (VMCZ) told AFP. “It’s barbaric in a democracy. It infringes on the constitution which provides for freedom of expression.”

Sunday Mail editor Mabasa Sasa, the paper’s investigations editor Brian Chitemba and reporter Tinashe Farawo were detained at Harare Central Police Station, Dube said. Police said they would issue a statement at a media briefing. 

According to The Herald, police denied such an investigation was under way. The Herald said the trio were accused of publishing falsehoods following a story in this week’s edition of The Sunday Mail.

The report said a police assistant commissioner, rangers in the parks and wildlife department, an Asian businessman and several junior officers were being investigated for the poisoning of at least 60 elephants in separate incidents.

Dube said the story did not warrant the journalists’ arrest. “The police should simply have asked for a retraction, issued a statement with the correct position or registered their complaint through VMCZ,” Dube said.

Scores of elephants have died from poisoning by suspected poachers near Zimbabwe’s main game reserve and near the border with Botswana in recent months. Some of the carcasses were found without tusks.

Some officers from the parks department have been arrested in connection with the incident.

Source: Zimbabwe journalists detained over elephant poaching story (3/11/15)

Monday, 2 November 2015

Top cop fingered in elephant poaching saga

A syndicate comprising police officers, Zimbabwe Parks and Wildlife Management Authority rangers and Asians is behind the latest spate of elephant killings in Hwange National Park, it has emerged.

One of the suspects under active investigation is an assistant commissioner of police. Several others have been arrested in connection with the killing of 22 elephants, including a junior cop and a parks camp manager.
The syndicate has allegedly killed around 55 elephants for their ivory tusks since early 2015. Information gathered over the last two weeks indicates the Asians are the kingpins behind the indiscriminate poaching, whose funds sometimes end up oiling other international criminal networks.
Globally, poaching and wildlife trafficking are highly lucrative businesses estimated to earn between US$23 billion and US$47 billion yearly. They are jointly ranked fourth on the list of large-scale illegal trade worldwide after drug trafficking, counterfeiting and human trafficking.
Police spokesperson, Senior Assistant Commissioner Charity Charamba, confirmed arrests were made last week and said investigations were continuing.
Parks and Wildlife Management Authority acting spokesperson, Mr Tawanda Gotosa, added: “I can confirm that some arrests were made and one of our camp managers was suspended.”
Mr Gotosa would not discuss the matter further saying doing so would jeopardise investigations. Senior government officials close to the probe said that names of those under investigation could not be published as yet.
Sources say that the masterminds engaged game rangers and rogue cops, arranging details of hits, including killing methods and transportation.
In the most recent case 22 elephants were poisoned, despite the security team being on patrol. It turned out that part of the patrol team was about 500m away and a ranger is said to have heard the noise made as the tusks were cut off.
Authorities said the rangers and police officers were working with a powerful syndicate including Asian businessmen responsible for sourcing cyanide from gold mines. Cyanide is a relatively expensive chemical and ordinary villagers around the Hwange National Park may not be able to buy it.
About 10kg of cyanide was reportedly taken from a gold mine in Esigodini, some 40km from Bulawayo. An official said: “The problem is that some of the rangers who have been assisting security forces investigate the matter are also involved in the poaching. This close-knit syndicate must be busted to bring sanity to wildlife conservation.”
Investigators also discovered that during a recent inventory of elephant tusks at Hwange National Park stores, a tusk was missing. However, a few days later, it had been replaced by a smaller one. Only parks officials have access to the stores.
Source: Top cop fingered in elephant poaching saga (2/11/15)

Saturday, 31 October 2015

Steam Trains back in fashion

Steam locomotives are back in Zimbabwe (pictured) after being upset for so many decades, desiels and electric trains are being used and a few steam trains running are used in tourist resorts like Victoria Falls and they are owned by private companies like the Victoria Falls Steam train which does trips to the amazing victoriafalls and across the border to Zambia.

Steam locomotives have proved very popular with tourists and this has prompted the National Railways of Zimbabwe to refurbish seven additional locomotives to bring the fleet of steam locomotives to 10, the parastatal’s public relations manager, Mr Fanuel Masikati, said yesterday.

In an interview, Mr Masikati said the locomotives were being used for rail leisure safari, targeting mainly tourists. Mr Masikati said the recent steam locomotive trial run from Bulawayo to Victoria Falls proved very popular with tourists.

“Our target was to have 200 passengers for the maiden trip from Bulawayo to Victoria Falls but we ended up with more than 300 as the trip was over subscribed. In response, we decided to refurbish additional locomotives to meet demand,” he said.

Mr Masikati said the rail leisure steam safari trains will be running on the Bulawayo-Victoria Falls, Bulawayo-Plumtree and Bulawayo-Mbalabala routes. “These trains will run on special days such as the Mother’s, Father’s, Valentine’s and family fun days,” he said.

Mr Masikati said introduction of the rail leisure steam safari trains was expected to generate additional business for the parastatal which in turn was going to increase revenue inflow. “Tourists and the general members of the public enjoy steam locomotives as evidenced by the overwhelming response we got for the maiden Bulawayo-Victoria Falls trip. We are receiving a lot of inquiries locally and internationally from individuals and families that want to take a ride on the trains.

Mr Masikati said the launch of the facility was yet to be confirmed. “Right now we are going to exhibit the rail leisure safari train at the Sanganai-Hlanganani travel expo which this year is going to be held in Harare. It is only after this that we will decide on the launch date,” he said.

Source: Steam Trains Back in Zimbabwe (Oct 2015)

Thursday, 29 October 2015

Poachers kill at least 22 more elephants, bringing total number poisoned this month to 62

At least 22 more elephants - including babies - have been poisoned to death by poachers in Zimbabwe, it was today revealed, as conservationists struggle to stem a spate of deadly attacks.

The animals' carcasses were discovered in Hwange National Park's Sinamatella area alongside 35 tusks, said Caroline Washaya-Moyo, spokeswoman for the parks and wildlife management authority.

The poachers, who apparently killed the elephants with cyanide, escaped with three ivory tusks.

The grim finding - made by park rangers yesterday morning - brings the number of elephants poisoned by poachers in the southern Africa country in October alone to a staggering 62. 

'We recovered 22 elephant carcasses in the Sinamatela area and so far we have also recovered 35 tusks,' Washaya-Moyo told AFP. 'Initial investigations indicate that there was cyanide poisoning.' 

She added: 'We continue to lobby for deterrent penalties for people found with poisonous substances such as cyanide. We can't continue to lose wildlife at such a rate.'

Rangers are now investigating how many of the elephants - who resided at the same park as Cecil the lion, who was shot dead by dentist Walter Palmer in July -  had fully developed tusks.

Speaking to the Associated Press, Washaya-Moyo said: 'We are now trying to check how many elephants had fully developed tusks because babies are among those killed.

'The rate at which we are losing animals to cyanide is alarming. Many other species are also dying from the cyanide used by poachers to target elephants. We are appealing to people in communities close to national parks to cooperate with authorities.'

The latest attacks come less than two weeks after 26 elephants died from poisoning in two separate incidents outside the park, in the resort town of Kariba and near Zimbabwe's border with Botswana.

The three killed in Kariba died from cyanide put in oranges. And last month, at least 14 elephants died of poisoning in various attacks.

In the wake of the poisonings, officials recovered 2.2lbs of poison from the elephants' habitats.

Poaching is common in Zimbabwe's game parks. Elephants and rhino are the main targets for poachers because of their tusks and horns, which are smuggled to eastern Asian countries.

Last year, more than 300 elephants died in suspected cyanide poisonings.
Washaya-Moyo said the parks agency is hoping that trained dogs from South Africa and the deployment of drones will help tighten monitoring of the vast, wildlife-rich park.

Earlier this month, Zimbabwe Environment, Water and Climate Minister Oppah Muchinguri blamed a ban on elephant sport hunting by the U.S. for increased poaching in the country.

'All this poaching is because of American policies, they are banning sport hunting.
'An elephant would cost $120,000 in sport hunting but a tourist pays only $10 to view the same elephant,' she said, adding money from sport hunting is crucial in conservation efforts. 

Yesterday, the national parks announced that, over the weekend, officials at Harare International Airport seized 380 pounds of ivory, worth $43,250, that was about to be smuggled to Singapore.

Three Zimbabweans and a Malian national were arrested over the smuggling bid, officials said.

Source: Poachers kill at least 22 more elephants, bringing total number poisoned this month to 62 (27/10/15)

Sunday, 18 October 2015

Tourism provides hope for Zim economy

THE seven percent increase in international tourist arrivals to Zimbabwe in the first half of 2015 is a sign of hope and an indicator of improved international sentiment about the country.
Tourism is a strategic cash cow for the government, contributing about $1 billion to the national fiscus annually.

We reported yesterday that the country recorded a seven percent increase in international tourist arrivals to 930,276 by June 2015, according to the Zimbabwe Tourism Authority (ZTA).
The figure compares favourably with 867,163 recorded in the same period last year.

The tourism authority says the increase has mostly been driven by the rise in arrivals from mainland Africa at a time when all other major markets experienced a decline except Oceania, which rose by 26 percent.

Arrivals from mainland Africa amounted to 811,717 up from 745,566 in 2014 representing a nine percent increase.

South Africa dominated African arrivals with 38 percent of the share given its big market, said ZTA.
We feel the growth in African arrivals is an eye opener, emphasising the need for the country to broaden its marketing scope across the globe.

While over the years we have generally tended to focus more on luring tourists from traditionally lucrative European and American sources, the latest statistics indicate a change in travel patterns.
This shows the African continent is lucrative too and the country stands to benefit immensely from tapping opportunities in it.

Thus, more marketing and engagement with African and Asian travellers is required to boost tourism earnings.

ZTA has said most arrivals from Africa came through Beitbridge Border Post and Harare International Airport.

In contrast, arrivals from Europe fell marginally by one percent with a decline in major markets including France, Germany, Italy, Nordic countries and Spain pulling down the overall performance of the region.

“The arrivals fell from 60,530 in 2014 to 60,021 in 2015. The European market share stood at six percent down one percentage point from seven percent in 2014. Europe remains the greatest overseas market for the country,” said ZTA.

We feel the tourism sector could capitalise on on-going government re-engagement efforts with the West to intensify its outreach programmes.

This will not only consolidate the present arrivals but entice new markets to also visit Zimbabwe.
This year the country expects to reap about $1, 5 billion from $827 million realised last year.
Arrivals from the Asian market dropped eight percent to 14,999 from 16,370 in 2014 with Japan and South Korea (the major markets) also declining.

However, China’s performance was encouraging, rising by 46 percent during the period under review.
“Research has shown that 81 percent of the Chinese arrivals entered through Harare International Airport, followed by Victoria Falls border with six percent, Victoria Falls airport with five percent and Kazungula with three percent,” said ZTA.

The authority noted the cumbersome visa procedure as a major inhibiting factor for the growth of this market in Zimbabwe.

It said steps were already under way to improve the Visa regime to attract more tourists.
America continues to be the second biggest overseas visitor to Zimbabwe since last year, having maintained an overall market share of three percent despite a 11 percent dip in arrivals to 27,000 from 30,373 in 2014.

During the period under review, Oceania registered a 26 percent increase from 11,575 arrivals in 2014 to 14,567.

Its market share stood at two percent up from one percent in the first half of 2014.
The Middle East continues to trail behind in its contribution to total arrivals into the country contributing less than one percent of the market share.

The region recorded a 33 percent fall in the first half of the year.

On accommodation statistics, ZTA said the average hotel room occupancy level shed one percentage point from 42 percent to 41 percent in the first half.

Tourism and Hospitality Industry Minister Walter Mzembi has said Zimbabwe could achieve a $5 billion economy by 2020 with tourism contributing more.

Such an ambitious dream is commendable. We feel its success is hinged on collective efforts of all interested stakeholders.

Development of adequate infrastructure, fair regulation and taxation as well as professional media reporting, can help develop a robust tourism industry.

Source: Tourism provides hope for Zim economy (17/10/15)

Saturday, 17 October 2015

Tourist arrivals up by 7 percent

Oliver Kazunga, Senior Business Reporter

THE country recorded a seven percent increase in international tourist arrivals to 930,276 in the first half of 2015, according to the Zimbabwe Tourism Authority (ZTA).

The increase was mostly driven by a rise in mainland Africa with all other major markets experiencing a decline except the Oceania, which rose by 26 percent.

During the comparable period last year, international tourist arrivals stood at 867,163.
Arrivals from mainland Africa registered 811,717, up from 745,566 in 2014 representing a nine percent increase.

South Africa dominated African arrivals with 38 percent of the share, said ZTA.

Most arrivals from Africa were through Beitbridge Border Post (71 percent) and Harare international Airport (12 percent).

At Beitbridge Border Post ZTA said most travellers were South Africans who were visiting friends and relatives and those on leisure.

The tourism authority said during the period under review, arrivals from Europe fell marginally by one percent with a decline in major markets including France, Germany, Italy, Nordic countries and Spain pulling down the overall performance of the region.

“The arrivals fell from 60,530 in 2014 to 60,021 in 2015. The European market share stood at six percent down one percentage point from seven percent in 2014. Europe remains the greatest overseas market for the country,” said ZTA.

Arrivals from the Asian market dropped eight percent to 14,999 from 16,370 in 2014 with Japan and South Korea (the major markets) also declining.

However, China’s performance was encouraging, rising by 46 percent during the period under review.
“Research has shown that 81 percent of the Chinese arrivals entered through Harare International Airport, followed by Victoria Falls border with six percent, Victoria Falls airport with five percent and Kazungula with three percent.

No single Chinese entered through Beitbridge.

“Further investigations also revealed that the bulk of the Chinese coming through the Harare International Airport are for business purposes. It is important to note that cumbersome visa procedures have been the major inhibiting factor for the growth of this market in Zimbabwe,” said ZTA.

The tourism body said steps were already underway to improve the visa regime to attract more tourists.

It noted that Americas continue to be the second greatest overseas visitors for Zimbabwe since last year.

The American region has maintained an overall market share of three percent. Arrivals from the America, like most other regions, fell by 11 percent from 30,373 in 2014 to 27,117.

During the period under review, the Oceania registered a 26 percent increase from 11,575 arrivals in 2014 to 14,567.

Its market share stood at two percent up from one percent in the first half 2014.

The Middle East continues trail behind in its contribution to total arrivals into the country contributing less than one percent of the market share.

The region recorded a 33 percent fall in the first half of the year.

On accommodation statistics, ZTA said the average hotel room occupancy level shed one percentage point from 42 percent to 41 percent in the first half.

“The occupancies were largely pulled down by declines in Masvingo, Nyanga and Mutare. Masvingo is largely dependent on domestic tourism and on average these constitute 92 percent of clients in accommodation facilities.

“Conferencing business greatly influences utilisation of facilities. Unfortunately, the current economic hardships have had an adverse impact on conferencing. On the contrary, Kariba and Hwange experienced positive growth in occupancies.

Source: Tourist arrivals up by 7 percent (16/10/15)

Slow pace of work on Zambezi water project a cause for concern

The idea to build a pipeline from the Zambezi River to Bulawayo was first mooted in 1912 by the British colonial rulers of the then Southern Rhodesia after realising that Matabeleland region suffered persistent droughts.

The implementation of the project has been hampered by all sorts of problems since then and its becoming a reality is still a distant dream whose tangible fruits would likely be enjoyed by generations to come, not this one.

The plan to draw water from the great Zambezi, regarded as the sole and permanent solution to the region’s perennial water woes, was to construct a dam with a capacity to hold 691 million cubic metres of water and the pipeline from the Zambezi River linking the dam with Bulawayo.

As per the plan, a green belt which is 30 kilometres wide on either side of the 450km pipeline was to be created and was to see more than five million hectares being put under irrigation.

“At the rate at which that project is progressing, it is likely to take another half-a-century more for it to be reality,” said Zapu spokesperson Mr Methuseli Moyo.

He said the project had suffered from a lot of political tensions and hence progress was slow.
“We have already lost 32 years since independence, as the central Government has done nothing major to take the project forward,” said Mr Moyo.

He said the colonial governments could not be entirely blamed for the slow progression of the water project, as they thought that black people were not desperate for development.

“I think the solution to this problem is for Government to come up with a clear formula to allocate funds to regions or provinces.

“Matabeleland North is rich in hard wood, methane, coal and other resources but these have not helped the region or the project itself, but if we had regional governments, people from Victoria Falls to Beitbridge, given their wealth and water challenges, will prioritise the completion of the project,” said Mr Moyo.

When implemented in full capacity, the National Matabeleland Zambezi Water Project (NMZWP), as it has become known, could be one of the drivers of the country’s Gross Domestic Product given that it would allow for millions of hectarage to be put under cultivation and other spin-off benefits.

It is worrying to note the snail’s pace at which the project is being undertaken, given the ultimate benefits of NMZWP.

Minister of Industry and Commerce and MDC president Professor Welshman Ncube said the progress of the construction of the project was by far unacceptable even after independence.

“It is very obvious that the project has been very slow and that is why the three parties in the Government of National Unity (Zanu-PF, MDC-T and MDC) agreed to make it a national project because it is a very big project,” said Prof Ncube.

He said the only solution to ensure that the NMZWP was completed was for Government to take charge of the project.

“It should be treated as a national project to allow Government to allocate meaningful funding towards the project,” said Prof Ncube.

Since 1912, successive governments have failed to implement the project citing high costs but lack of political will has also been cited as one of the major stumbling blocks to the success of the project.
The project was previously being run by the Matabeleland Zambezi Water Trust with Dr Dumiso Dabengwa as chairman, before the Inclusive Government decided to take over.

Bulawayo United Residents’ Association (Bura) chairperson Mr Winos Dube said the water project had been negatively impacted by political squabbles and the fight for controlling the project.
“What needs to be done is for people to work together because this project, once it is complete, will benefit all Zimbabweans,” said Mr Dube.

He said unity of purpose among political players and the powers that be would be advantageous to the development of the project.

“If people unite, you will see progress in the project because when all is said and done the people need water,” said Mr Dube.

According to a plan by the Ministry of Water Resources and Development, Phase One of this project is the construction of the Gwayi Shangani Dam, Phase Two is the construction of a pipeline from Gwayi Shangani Dam to Bulawayo. Phase Three will be connecting a pipe from Zambezi River to Gwayi Shangani Dam to increase the volume of water in the Gwayi Shangani Dam to enable for the actual pushing of substantial amounts of water from Gwayi Shangani to Bulawayo and the Midlands.
Phase Four will be taking water from Bulawayo through a pipeline or canal to Beitbridge.

As per the plan there will be off-takes along the route as this pipeline travels in Matabeleland North to Bulawayo. There will be some pipes that would branch off from that main pipe to service areas such as Kadoma, Kwekwe and Gweru and there will also be some branches that will take that water to areas like Plumtree and from there it would go to Beitbridge.

Bulawayo Agenda director Mr Thabani Nyoni said the name “Matabeleland” on the project only meant that the region was the chief beneficiary, but has been used to frustrate its progress.
“The project has degenerated to a case of abandonment especially in the national budget. The project has not benefited much from the allocations,” said Mr Nyoni.

He said from the civic society point of view, Matabeleland people should not lobby for the completion of the project by themselves but all stakeholders should play a part.

Water Resources and Development Minister Samuel Sipepa Nkomo has in the past admitted that no government can do the project on its own, as it was a huge project.

According to Minister Nkomo, the project would require the private sector to partner Government as well as financial institutions from outside the country to chip in and assist bring the project to an end.

Source: Slow pace of work on Zambezi water project a cause for concern (16/10/15)

Friday, 16 October 2015

Victoria Falls will not dry up

THE African Travel and Tourism Association (ATTA) has dismissed recent media reports suggesting Victoria Falls, one of the Seven Natural Wonders of the World, was drying up.
ATTA chairman Ross Kennedy, in a statement yesterday, said “perhaps the October madness may have been getting the better of some of those suggesting otherwise”.
“Victoria Falls will never become ‘Victoria Walls’, as locals self-deprecatingly joke,” he said.
Kennedy said according to local river experts, the facts were that there would always be water in Victoria Falls, particularly the Zimbabwean side between the David Livingstone statue and Livingstone Island.
“Traditionally, Victoria Falls is at its driest at this time of the year, and often before the rainy season begins, the Zambian side does come close to drying up, with just a small amount of water flowing over in some places,” he said.
“This is simply because the Falls are slightly lower on the Zimbabwean side.”
Kennedy said due to exceptionally low rainfall in the catchment area during the last rainy season, the water level was at its lowest since 1996.
“The water levels will continue to drop as usual until the rains start in the catchment area north of Victoria Falls. So rest assured, Victoria Falls deservedly remains one of the Seven Natural Wonders of the World, and nothing can change that,” he said.
Kennedy’s strong rebuttal comes amid reports that half of Victoria Falls had dried up and the falls were beginning to get parched.
Source: Victoria Falls will not dry up (15/10/15)

Tuesday, 13 October 2015

Victoria Falls tourist areas exploited by local lovers

Adelaide Moyo Features Reporter

THE Big Tree, one of the best known trees in the world, found in the resort town of Victoria Falls is attracting more fornicating lovers than tourists lately.

Unusually for a Baobab Adonsonia digitata, the tree has both an impressive girth and is very tall at 22,40 metres in 2004 and 24 metres tall in 1985, according to Wikipedia. But neither the girth nor the height are of interest to lovers in the resort town. Rather they have interest in it only as a love nest.
They drive their flashy cars to the Big Tree and start exploiting each other’s bodies, giving little care to curio vendors who sell their wares to foreign tourists.

Brighton Ndlovu, a curio vendor operating near the Big Tree witnesses close to a dozen cars almost daily parked in the bush close to the iconic tree.

“Our vending zone has been invaded. It has been turned into a lovers’ nest. They openly engage in sex. We operate from this place because it’s popular with tourists who come to view the Big Tree. To our surprise we’re getting more of the sex maniacs than tourists of late. These people end up having sex in the bushy area near the Big Tree,” Ndlovu said.

His colleagues are baffled too by the motorists’ choice of a “quick sex” venue.

Business for the informal traders, has gone down lately. Ndlovu blames the sex crazy lot for repelling tourists from the Big Tree.

“Tourists have bumped into these lovers indulging in sex in their cars on so many occasions. I think the motorists prefer doing ‘it’ in the car for fear of being attacked by wild animals. They also can’t drive into secluded areas deep in the bush because there are more wild animals there. We witness most of these sex escapades when hiding from tourism police and rangers in the bush at times,” he said.

Sex in the bush or car and the decaying of morals in the resort town is giving senior citizens sleepless nights.

It has been turned into a fashion statement that is threatening to diminish Victoria Falls as a tourist destination.

Three weeks ago, residents of Victoria Falls were treated to free drama when a married man, Simba Shoko, was caught, red handed with a married woman, Faith Mathe. The two were having sex in a car parked in a bushy area near Masue Bridge.

Shoko and Mathe were arrested in exactly the same area where a Zimra boss, Jambo Nyongo, was caught naked having sex in a car with a married woman some months back.

Last month, a human resources boss from a local hotel was caught by his wife while also having a nice time with his lover at Mkhosana turn-off in the car. This followed a sad incident which cost the life of a 16-year-old Mosi-oa-Tunya High School girl two months ago. The girl’s body was found floating in the Zambezi River and her boyfriend, Brian Dube, was attacked by two assailants, Augustine Ncube and Nhlanganiso Luphahla. Dube and the girl were found picnicking near the Big Tree. The boyfriend was also beaten and left for dead and only managed to make a report to the police with the help of some tourists who later picked him up.

Ncube and Luphahla have since been arrested and are awaiting trial in Hwange.

Victoria Falls is well known to the world as a majestic tourist destination because of its scenic environs and state of the art hotel and lodge facilities as well as tour services. The mighty Victoria Falls, known as Mosi-oa-Tunya (The smoke that thunders) in local language, is one of the Seven Wonders of the World. Its waters fall 108 metres down while the Rainforest presents visitors with a rare treat of a natural equatorial habitat far away from the equator itself.

Most locals, it seems, have little appreciation of the scenic environs of their town.

They have turned sex into some form of recreation.

“Having sex in the bush doesn’t help give our town a good image. If these people were genuine couples they would make love in their houses. The fact that they prefer the bush shows how wrong the whole thing is. I think it’s best we respect our town as a tourist attraction. People come here from all over the world to view the beauty of the town, not a defiled resort,” said Musa Moyo of Mkhosana suburb.

Nkosilathi Dube, a resident, said people preferred the “safe haven” of the bush because of lack of privacy at most lodges in the resort town.

He noted that most people in Victoria Falls knew each other, hence their preference for the bush.
“I’m against such immoral behaviour but if people have to do it, they should book in lodges for their romping,” said Dube.

Residents want every person to work towards sprucing up the image of Victoria Falls.

They said “sex in the bush” frustrated efforts to market the town as a tourist destination of choice.
Tourism is the mainstay of the resort town’s economy.

Those who indulge in adulterous relationships fear the walls of hotels and lodges which they feel offer little or no privacy.

Khanondo Safaris and Tours manager, Ben Tessa, said people valued safety above everything else.
“It’s not that people can’t afford to book in a lodge. Some lodges charge ridiculously low prices for a room but people feel comfortable using the bush because they feel it’s safer there.

“This happens in almost all towns. Lovers drive to secluded places for sex but in the case of Victoria Falls, it’s different because it’s a small town as every incident gets to be known. If you book into a certain lodge with your lover, by the end of the day it will be known not because there is no more confidentiality by hotel staff but because everyone’s face is familiar and word spreads fast,” Tessa said.

The headmaster of Mosi-oa-Tunya High School, Rowland Sibanda, blamed such behaviour partly on the lack of mainstream entertainment for youths in the resort town.

He described such behaviour as disgusting to the community.

“I’m worried by an increase in the number of pupils who unashamedly engage in premarital sex especially with men older than them. As a leader who works with children I really don’t tolerate such behaviour. It’s our duty and responsibility as parents and teachers to come up with strategies to control such behaviour.

“The problem is there are no leisure centres like parks, play centres, libraries or community projects for youths in this town. As a result, youths end up visiting adult places of entertainment resulting in them partaking in activities meant for adults,” observed Sibanda.

He implored the local authority to come up with child-friendly budgets that promote the development of entertainment areas for children.

“This will help keep juveniles away from crime and other vices as well as enhance their chances to have a bright future,” said Sibanda.

Residents also blame long distance truck drivers who camp in the resort town’s Truck Stop for days waiting to be cleared at the border.

They suspect the truck drivers are one of the key contributors to the rise of HIV and Aids.

Victoria Falls Residents Association chairman, Morgan Dube, said casual sex in the bush was causing the disintegration of families.

“The culprits should be ashamed of such behaviour. Residents who engage in such activities should stop because many marriages are falling apart. We condemn such practices in the community and we call upon law enforcement agents to help us end such acts,” Dube said.

He recommended the enforcement of stringent laws by authorities forbidding sex in places of interest like the Big Tree.

Zimbabwe Parks and Wildlife Management area manager in charge of Zambezi National Park, Edmore Ngosi, said they work hand in hand with the police in enforcing laws.

“We don’t allow people to stray into the forest and if we find anyone doing such things we don’t hesitate to arrest them and hand them over to the police,” he said.

Zambezi National Park encompasses Victoria Falls town.

Source: Vic Falls’ sex haven (12/10/15)