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Monday 30 November 2015

(More) Big plans for Victoria Falls

 The time has come to ‘modernise’ the Victoria Falls to attract a younger generation traveller to the World Heritage Site. This was the message from Zimbabwe’s Tourism Minister, Walter Mzembi, during the Mail & Guardian Investment Tourism Summit in Durban last week.

Mzembi says the Falls currently attract a “very elderly market of people”. He said the youth were easily bored with the natural attractions on offer and tended to hop back on the plane to South Africa for more “modern” experiences. “We should develop the Victoria Falls in order to capture and attract the attention of the Y-generation market.”

Mzembi stressed 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 planned development includes an integrated tourism resort in Victoria Falls, which will position the area as a tourism hub for the SADC region and the development of the world’s first ever ‘eco-Disneyland’, according to Mzembi. The feasibility study for this theme park will be fast-tracked as part of a MOU that will be signed with China’s President, Xi Jinping, who is visiting the country next week.

Also 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, adding that currently the area needed to turn down conventions for lack of capacity. “Each time we hold a conference, we need to outsource to Zambia, because on our own, we can’t meet the demand.”

The Zimbabwean government will also look 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.

These proposed developments will close the infrastructure gaps in the resort town and lead to increased tourism earnings, said Mzembi. He added that the developments would also considerably increase the length of stay from the current two to three nights to seven-night stays. He added that the new Victoria Falls Airport, which will be commissioned before December 10, would considerably increase air capacity to the region.

The Zimbabwean government has made prime land near the Victoria Falls available for the development of these projects. However, Mzembi is still looking for private investors to make these projects a reality.

Source: (More) Big plans for Victoria Falls (30/11/15)

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)