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Tuesday 31 March 2015

Tourism receipts down 3%

Tourism receipts were down 3% to $827 million in 2014 from the previous year despite an increase in arrivals, a reflection of a decline in expenditure, a new report has shown.
In 2013, the sector recorded receipts of $856 million.
The report, Brief Overview of Tourism Performance in 2014, was conducted by the Zimbabwe Tourism Authority (ZTA) on the state of the sector.
“Tourism receipts recorded a marginal 3% decline from $856 million down to $827 million. This to an extent reflects a slight decline in expenditure especially in the tourism facility by the same proportion,” ZTA said.
The decline in receipts comes as the sector projects to be a $5 billion industry by 2020.
Tourist arrivals grew 2,6% in 2014 to 1 880 028 from 1 832 583 in 2013. ZTA said the growth in arrival was 0,7 percentage points below the sub-Sahara growth of 3,3%.
“There was growth in arrivals from all of the country’s major source regions except Asia. Zimbabwe still receives 85% of tourist arrivals from low value markets,” it said.
It said the discontinuation of direct flights to Harare by the Royal Dutch Airlines (KLM) and Egypt Air “has dealt a blow on Zimbabwean tourism, especially as the country continues to battle with connectivity challenges with its major overseas markets”.
Egypt Air and KLM discontinued direct flight to Zimbabwe in September and October respectively on the grounds that the routes had become uneconomic to continue serving.
ZTA said the outbreak of Ebola in West Africa in March last year caused a huge worldwide scare on potential travellers into Africa. It said the outbreak and the publicity it received affected Zimbabwe as overseas travellers see Africa as “one destination”.
“Victoria Falls was worst hit by cancellations after the outbreak since Victoria Falls is an add-on destination combined with other countries, such as South Africa, Kenya, Botswana, Zambia and Namibia,” it said.
Last year 15 buyers from Botswana withdrew from participating at the Sanganai/Hlanganani-World Tourism Expo while the African Marketing Summit that was scheduled to have been held in October the same year was also postponed over Ebola fears.
The fears came after government said it had no capacity to conduct tests to detect the deadly Ebola virus with officials in the Health and Child Care ministry saying specimens from suspected cases would be referred to South African laboratories for verification.
The World Health Organisation says over 10 000 have died in West Africa since the outbreak of the virus in March last year.
National average occupancy level was flat on 48% last year.
The average room occupancy levels for Harare rose to 59% from 52% in 2013. In Bulawayo the room occupancy fell to 44% from 52%. In Victoria Falls room occupancy also fell to 49% from 53% in 2013.
ZTA said last year’s Sadc conference saw occupancy rates in Victoria Falls rising to 80% compared to 57% in August 2013.
ZTA said Ebenezer & Jehovah’s Witnesses Conventions had pulled in a number of tourists.
“The two events had significant impact on the tourism economy of the capital city, with major hotels in Harare attaining 100% occupancy level from 20 to 26 August, 2014,” it said.
Source: Tourism receipts down 3% (29/03/15)

Friday 20 March 2015

Lion walks in Livingstone to be suspended

The Directors and Management of Lion Encounter have agreed to suspend lion walks in Livingstone as of November 2015, acting on recommendations by, and in consultation with, ALERT’s Executive Committee. The main objective of this decision is to reduce the number of lions entering into the African Lion Rehabilitation & Release into the Wild Programme, until lions have been successfully released into the wild from the programme.
walking with lions
The decision, made in late February 2014, was advised to members of the African Lion Working Group the following month, and to the Zambia Wildlife Authority in October 2014, in accordance with the stipulations of the Tourism Concession Agreement under which Lion Encounter operates. A public announcement was delayed until nearer the effective date to enable Lion Encounter to put in place alternative strategies. These aim to provide job security to Lion Encounter’s staff, whilst continuing to raise finance to support the Release Programme, as well as ALERT’s broader conservation and community development programmes; many of which are operated in partnership with Lion Encounter.
Lion walks will continue in the immediate future at Lion Encounter Victoria Falls and at Antelope Park, but at a reduced level. Suspension of lion walks at these locations will also be considered in light of progress made on releasing lions over the next two years.
To read Africa Geographic’s post on why walking with lions is not good conservation practice click here and to read Christopher Clark’s blog questioning the ethics of lion walking click here.

Sunday 15 March 2015

Tourists see croc eating body of suspected poacher

A group of tourists cruising along the Zambezi River got the shock of their lives when they found crocodiles eating a human body, a Zimbabwean conservationist said on Friday.
Trevor Lane of the Bhejane Trust said the crocodiles were eating “the bottom half of a human”.
The man was suspected to have been an ivory poacher.
“It was a sunset cruise,” Lane told a Sapa correspondent.
The tourists, believed to be English, were staying at a camp in the Siansimba area of Zambia in mid-February. They were cruising on the Zambezi, which forms the border between Zambia and Zimbabwe.
[Siansimba Camp is located several kilometres upstream of the Victoria Falls in the Zambezi National Park.] 
The visitors and the guide on their boat saw crocodiles feeding on something in the river. When the boat neared the crocodiles, they saw what was left of a man.
“We strongly suspect it was a poacher,” Lane said.
He said that two days earlier, rangers had mounted an ambush in the area to try to catch a group of poachers believed to have crossed from Zambia.
There were 13 poachers altogether. One of them was killed outright. Local intelligence showed that only nine made it back across the river. Three of them have still not been accounted for.
“Maybe he was wounded and tried to swim across the river,” Lane said.
The grisly discovery was immediately reported to the authorities in Zambia when the boat docked.
But when officials rushed to the spot where the crocodiles had been seen, they found no remains left.
The Bhejane Trust operates in Zimbabwe's Zambezi and Hwange National Parks.

Wednesday 11 March 2015

Vic Falls Council owed $6.6 million

THE Victoria Falls Town Council has said it is owed $6,6 million in outstanding rate payments and the figure is increasing as the liquidity crisis continues to plague residents.

The resort town’s mayor Sifiso Mpofu told Southern Eye Business that he was alarmed at the rate ratepayers were defaulting.
“The local authority was owed $6,6 million by the end of January 2015 and that figure is increasing every month,” Mpofu said.
“Over the years, the local authority has been rolling out a number of strategies to entice ratepayers to honour their obligations, but yielded less than desired responses,” he said.
Mpofu said some of the strategies his council had adopted since dollarisation included personalised appeal letters to each ratepayer requesting settlement of outstanding bills; appeals through ward councillor meetings and budget review meetings; appeals through residents’ associations and other pressure groups.
And also had one-on-one engagements; roadshows to educate ratepayers on the need to pay their obligations for better service delivery outcomes; discounted initiatives on ratepayers clearing balances to current month and payment arrangements.
As a last resort, Mpofu said the local authority sought legal action against defaulting ratepayers, but this too had proved fruitless.
Mpofu said his council had prioritised basic service provision as its chief mandate, among other services that it provides to both local communities and tourists.
He said the town had managed to continuously attract and retain high tourism inflows by offering high quality services in portable water and clean town surroundings to safeguard the health of tourists.
He said the infrastructure (road, water, sewage, among others) was constantly improved and maintained at certain internationally acceptable levels to allow various places to be accessible and user friendly to visitors.
Mpofu added that the municipality ensured that development on national parks was minimal to maintain the flora and fauna of the town and that there was strict adherence to environment and wildlife policies, by-laws and acts.
Last year, the council approved a $20 million budget for 2015, an increase from the 2014 budget of $17,5 million.
Source: Victoria Falls owed $6,6 million (10/03/2015)

Tuesday 10 March 2015

Chief Sekute’s palace gutted

Unkown people have burnt chief Sekute’s royal court and part of the palace in Kazungula, district commissioner Pascalina Musokotwane has said. Ms Musokotwane said in an interview yesterday that the motive behind the suspected arson is yet to be established but that there have been succession wrangles in the chiefdom.

“After receiving the report of the fire, I quickly informed the security agencies to investigate the incident and to ensure the safety of chief Sekute,” Ms Musokotwane said.

He is, however, happy that no life was lost in the inferno.

Chief Sekute’s son, Lwiizi, confirmed that the royal court was gutted and that law enforcement agencies have instituted investigations to establish the cause.

A Daily Mail crew that rushed to the palace in Kazungula’s Mambova on Saturday found the gutted royal court and part of the palace. Chief Sekute’s retainer Peter Samabi said police have apprehended Hane Chileshe, 74, to help with investigations

Mr Chileshe’s wife Justina Nakamba said there was general cleaning at the palace court around 12:00 hours when fire broke out.

“The fire started at 12:00 hours and we only managed to have the Fire Brigade from Livingstone after 14:00 hours who drove about 80 kilometres to the palace,” Ms Nakamba said.

Source: Chief Sekute’s palace gutted (09/03/15)

Monday 9 March 2015

Vic falls bans open space churches

THE Victoria Falls Municipality has banned open space churches saying they were a nuisance to tourism and a threat to the environment.

A number of churches have sprouted along the highway on the buffer zone, which is reserved as an animal corridor forcing the council to take the bold step.

Town Clerk Christopher Dube announced the move to ban these churches at a full council meeting recently.

Dube said the council felt the proliferation of open space worshipers would have a negative bearing on tourism as they are now a common feature along major roads in the resort town.
“We want to engage them before we take action,” said Dube.

“Churches should operate formally just like any other business. They should apply to use whatever space and people be informed that there will be a church than for them to just take their equipment and start making noise, that is not acceptable here in Victoria Falls.”

He continued: “This even disturbs tourism. There are places where they can go and worship such as the stadium and the local hall. There are open spaces where we can allow churches to conduct services such as crusades and police should be notified as this will be for a specified period not what they are doing.

“For now we don’t want to be confrontational but they should respect the local authority and its by-laws. We will engage them but in the event they don’t take advice we would then take action and they will be arrested,” added Dube.

However the development is likely to invite war between the local authority and open space worshipers, particularly the apostolic sects and the Zionist churches.

A few years ago the Bulawayo City Council clashed with worshipers when the local authority resolved to ban them from worshiping under trees.

The idea was dropped after a stiff resistance from the churches.