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Tuesday 25 February 2014

Govt directive haunts Vic Falls town

THE Victoria Falls Town Council owes the Zimbabwe Electricity Supply Authority (Zesa) and Zimbabwe National Water Authority (Zinwa) a combined total of $1,2 million in charges, a debt the municipality blames on the government directive to scrap residents’ debts.
The financially embattled local authority scrapped $3,6 million owed by residents in September 2013 and council said that had seriously backfired as it was now struggling to meet its obligations. Town clerk Phillip Ndlovu confirmed the council owes the two entities, but would not provide figures saying he was out of the office.
“I am in Gweru, phone me on Monday (today) so that I give you the exact figures and strategies put in place to settle the bills,” he said.
The resort town’s council has been losing millions in revenue for the past 14 years in uncollected property tax after failing to regularise the use of land along the Zambezi River corridor.
The council also reportedly maintained a flawed database of its properties resulting in it losing millions of dollars in revenue since it gained town status in 1999. An audit revealed that there were a number of council properties that were being sublet by individuals with the local authority getting nothing from tenants.
The situation has gravely affected the council’s operations resulting in it failing to pay its approximately 300 employees on time.
Employees have in the past engaged in sporadic strikes demanding payment and the matter at one point spilled into the Labour Court.

Saturday 22 February 2014

Zim re-engages Europe, America tourism markets

Zimbabwe seeks to re-engage the European and Americas tourism markets as part of efforts to boost depressed tourist receipts.

This comes as President Robert Mugabe’s administration had in the early 2000s abandoned the key traditional source markets under a Look East policy, to focus on Asia.
However, Europe and the West remain the major markets for the country’s tourism industry.
In the meantime, government has intensified efforts to revive the tourism industry, targeting to contribute $5 billion to the country’s gross domestic product by 2018.
Last Friday, Zimbabwe Tourism Authority (ZTA)’s chief executive Karikoga Kaseke, said there is need to re-engage with the world’s high value markets and improve destination image if the country is grow its tourism industry.
“From 1999 to 2013 European visitors declined by 66 percent from 380 113 to 128 901, while those from the Americas declined by 53 percent from 116 109 to 54 157,” he said, adding that “at the same time, tourists from Oceania also contracted by 65 percent from 65 281 to 22 689”.
Kaseke said the negative image tag attached to Zimbabwe as a tourism brand has continued to haunt the nation considering that the period 1980 to 1999 arrivals average growth rate was 14 percent per annum.
“Had this growth been sustained, over 14 million arrivals would have been realised in year 2013,” he said.
Latest ZTA figures indicate that the country recorded a two percent growth in tourist arrivals from 1 794 230 in 2012 to 1 832 570 in 2013.
Despite the increase, the arrivals are yet to reach the peak of 2, 2 million tourists recorded in 1999.
The majority of 2013 arrivals were low-spending tourists from mainland Africa who came in at 1 570 799.
Kaseke noted that average expenditure by the African visitors is around $250 per trip based on a 2004 Visitor Exit Survey.
“Due to Zimbabwe’ geographic location, the destination is naturally a transit hub in the region. The great traffic from Africa is usually visitors who are transiting through the country to South Africa and Tanzania mainly for trade purposes.”

Thursday 20 February 2014

Shearwater introduces new product

Senior Victoria Falls Reporter

ONE of the leading tour and adventure operators in Victoria Falls – Shearwater Adventures – has introduced a new product – Zambezi River gorge hikes. The new product, which allows guests to explore the Batoka Gorges below the mighty Zambezi River is now one of the 50 activities that are now on offer in the resort town.

Shearwater group public relations manager, Clement Mukwasi said as the tourism sector anticipates an upsurge in tourists arrivals this year, they were now offering a new product to add to the already existing cartel of activities in the resort town.

“The gorge hikes give participants the opportunity to swim in the Zambezi without the unwelcome attention of crocodiles and hippos. The walk in and out of the Batoka Gorge involves a steep 250 metre climb, which is quite strenuous but can be conquered by anyone with a reasonable level of fitness.”

Mukwasi said there were two hiking options available which are the Boiling Pot Hike and the ‘Devil’s Delight’ which is available during the low season from approximately August to December.
“Participants hike down the Batoka Gorge and pass under the Victoria Falls Bridge to the ‘Boiling Pot’ below the Falls where they are ferried by raft to the rocky outcrops below the Falls,” he said.

Mukwasi said the Batoka Gorge Hike and Ndebele Village Tour were now available all year round.
“The activity includes a 40-minute off-road drive through the Zimbabwean countryside to the starting point of the hike. The hike begins about 20km downstream of the Victoria Falls and is followed by a swim in the Zambezi before the demanding climb out.

Atop the gorge, participants take a short trail through the bush to an authentic Ndebele homestead where they can interact with the local headman and his family while having brunch under the thatched shade of their decorated mud huts,” he said.

Other activities in Victoria Falls include elephant interaction, gorge swing, bungee jumping, lion walk, tour of the Victoria Falls Rainforest, cruises, white water rafting, kayaking, Victoria Falls bridge tour, helicopter ride over the rainforest also known as the Flight of Angels, horse trails, game viewing among others.

Source: Shearwater introduces new product (19/02/14)

Tuesday 18 February 2014

Elephant poaching on the rise in Zambia

Zambia has recorded a steady rise in elephant poaching in recent years. Last year, Zambia lost a total of 135 elephants to poaching as compared to 124 in 2012 and 96 in 2011, according to the country's position paper presented at a London conference last week.
The country currently has an ivory stockpile of 10, 031 pieces due to a surge in illegal trade and poaching of elephants, said Zamibian Tourisma and Arts Minister Sylvia Masebo.
The elephant population has dwindled from an estimated over 200,000 head of elephants in the 1970s and 1980s to about 26, 382, the minister said citing a 2008 survey. "Current figures indicate that Zambia lost a total of 135 elephants to poaching in 2013 as compared to 124 elephants in 2012 and 96 elephants in 2011, respectively. This has been a stable but steady increase in poaching levels," Masebo said.
She, however, added that the rise in elephant poaching in Zambia was relatively low as compared to other neighbouring countries that have seen unprecedented high levels of poaching.
Zambian minister said funding to a government agency that manages wildlife has been increased to help it improve the management of wildlife.
Source: Elephant poaching on the rise in Zambia (external site)