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Thursday 28 April 2016

Batoka Gorge power project finally starts

The governments of Zambia and Zimbabwe are next year set to kick-start the construction of the huge Batoka Gorge Dam hydropower power project, which has been in the pipeline for over a decade.

The Zimbabwe River Authority, which manages the Kariba Dam and is the custodian of Zambezi waters, said engineering feasibility studies will be complete in July together with the environmental and social impact assessment studies.
“The Legal and Financial Advisory studies will also be complete in the course of this year. This part of the studies will come up with recommendations on various options for financing the project, which is estimated to cost $3.5 billion,” reads part of the ZRA statement.
Batoka is a large gorge carved by the Zambezi River into the strata of basalt rock over hundreds of thousands of years. The huge hydropower dam would be one of Africa’s tallest and would create a large reservoir that would have the capacity to supply 60 percent of the continent’s electricity needs.
ZRA said upon completion, the power station would have the capacity to generate around 2 400 MW of power (1 200 MW for Zambia and (1 200 MW for Zimbabwe). Two power stations are set to be constructed on the northern and southern sides of the dam, just like at Kariba Dam.
Besides its envisaged massive power generation capacity, the project is also expected to create employment opportunities that would benefit the local communities and also from the infrastructure development that includes housing and other social amenities.
ZRA said the hydropower project will have a 181-metre-high dam wall that will hold back 1,680 million cubic metres of water, covering an area of approximately 26 square kilometres. The reservoir will be long and narrow, stretching about a kilometre from the plunge pool of the Victoria Falls. The project is expected to take about 10-13 years to complete.
The project would have limited adverse effects on the environment since it will be confined to a long narrow gorge. The low settlement density in the area will also minimise the number of people needing to be resettled.
Experts say the Batoka project would be the third largest hydropower development on the Zambezi River mainstream, after Kariba and Cabora Bassa in Mozambique. Attempts by environmental activists to dissuade the two governments from undertaking the project on the basis that it would disturb the flora and fauna have been dismissed as non-consequential, especially compared with the massive economic potential the dam will have on both Zambia and Zimbabwe.
The objective of the project is to increase power generation and capacity between Zambia and Zimbabwe, reduce power outages and reliance on coal fired power stations. This will spur additional investment and result in increased industrial development and performance.
Increased power supply will also create opportunities for improved water and sanitation service delivery as most urban wastewater systems are energy dependent. Once completed the Batoka Hydropower Scheme will leave Zambia and Zimbabwe as net exporters of power in the region after meeting local demand.

Legacy Hotels takes over African Sun Properties

African Sun and Legacy Hospitality have signed an agreement to co-operate in the development of tourism in Zimbabwe. The agreement provides for the management, refurbishment and expansion of five of African Sun’s strategic assets- The Kingdom at Victoria Falls, Elephant Hills Resort, Hwange Safari Lodge, The Monomatapa Hotel and Troutbeck Hotel.Refurbishments at the Victoria Falls properties are already underway, with future expansion to Caribbea Bay and Fothergill Island planned.

The addition of Elephant Hills Resort and The Kingdom at Victoria Falls to the Talking Stick portfolio has unfortunately created a conflict with our marketingof Victoria Falls Safari Lodge, part of Africa Albida Tourism (AAT). Therefore, effective May 1,Talking StickMarketing will no longer berepresenting AAT (Victoria Falls Safari Lodge and Ngoma Safari Lodge) in the United Kingdom and Europe.This is certainly sad news for us as we have enjoyed eight years working closely with the team at AAT and wish them much success in the years to come.

Ross Kennedy, CEO of Africa Albida Tourism states, “Weat Africa Albida Tourism have enjoyed a wonderfully successful and professional relationship with Talking Stick Marketing over the last eight years. They have grown our UK and Europeanmarket share significantly and established our products firmly in those markets. We are sad to bid them farewell, but circumstances sometimes dictate such decisions. As we move on to a new era, we are pleased to announce a smooth and efficient transition will take place, with the appointment of Zoe Carroll as our new representative in the United Kingdom and Ireland ( 161 7880348). Marc and the Talking Stick team will liaise with Zoe and our team in Zimbabwe, to ensure as seamless a handover as possible.”

In addition to the two Victoria Falls properties, this agreement will grow the Legacy presence in Zimbabwe. The 100-room Hwange Safari Lodge will be completely upgraded on a phased basis into a 4-5 Star lodge at affordable prices, including a new waterhole. The Monomotapa Hotel Harare is planned to undergo a face-lift to all its 240 rooms, with the addition of a new outdoor pool area and additional restaurant facilities. At the famous Troutbeck Hotel, Legacy intends to retain its unique character and atmosphere, whilst expanding the leisure activities.

“The past months of negotiations as well as our constructive interaction with the Government, has convinced us that Zimbabwe is on the road to recovery. Whilst rebuilding confidence in any market takes time, we believe all the ingredients are in place to fast track this process”, remarked Legacy Group Chairman Bart Dorenstein.

Source: Legacy Hotels takes over African Sun Properties (26/04/16)

Monday 18 April 2016

Cheeky Monkey sneaks into hotel to steal milk

VICTORIA FALLS, Zimbabwe, March 25 (UPI) - A visitor to a famous Victoria Falls hotel captured footage of a sneaky monkey quenching its thirst by stealing some milk from a housekeeping cart.

The video, posted to YouTube by Dave Sparks, shows a monkey in a hallway at the famous Victoria Falls Hotel climbing on a housekeeping cart and helping himself to some milk.

"This vervet monkey was drinking from the single serve milk containers on the housekeeping cart at the famous Zimbabwe hotel," Sparks wrote.

The video, filmed last summer, shows the monkey drink multiple small packages of milk before running off down the hallway.

Thursday 14 April 2016

KAZA-TFCA is not a white elephant

Windhoek – The Kavango-Zambezi Transfonteir Conservation Area or KAZA – TFCA is still relevant, and the institution has made notable progress towards achieving the institution mandate, even though some member states, such as Botswana, have expressed dissatisfaction with the developmental pace of KAZA.

Countries such as Zambia and Namibia has already tested the fruits of the initiatives, developing new infrastructure development in the parks and having training for park officials.
Among the success stories are the joint patrols, sharing of knowledge on human wildlife conflict mitigation measures, opening of wildlife corridors in countries particularly the demining process in Angola to allow for movement of elephants, joint raising of funds for infrastructure development, tourism visa in piloted between Zambia and Zimbabwe.
“We have been spearheading consultative meetings throughout the region, affording stakeholders an opportunity to actively participate in deliberating and planning the actions they deemed necessary to protect the natural and cultural assets of the area, unlock its ecotourism potential and deliver benefits emanating from conservation to the people of the region in an equitable and sustainable manner,” KAZA executive secretariat Dr Morris Mtsambiwa told The Southern Times in an exclusive interview.
KAZA was formed in 2012 as the largest transfrontier conservation area in the world measuring over 500,000 square kilometers and spread out over five SADC countries – Angola, Botswana, Namibia, Zambia and Zimbabwe.
The regional park converges on the international borders of Zambia, Botswana, Angola, Namibia and Zimbabwe. The area encompasses 36 national parks, game reserves, protected areas and villages.
Most well-known of the component parks are the Bwabwata National Park, Chobe National Park, the Okavango Delta and the Victoria Falls.
Last month Botswana Minister of Environment, Wildlife and Tourism Tshekedi Khama expressed his frustration about the slow progress made through KAZA since its formation during the Botswana’s Travel and Tourism Expo in Kasane this year.
“I am not impressed were KAZA is at. We have challenges. In Zambia, it is poaching, in Zimbabwe it is funding. In Namibia they don’t have dedicated conservation areas; there is mixed land usage system. In Angola there are just coming out of the war. I wish I could be more positive. I wish KAZA would have gone a lot further than it has go,” the minister was quoted as saying during the side-line interview with Peolwane, an in-flight magazine of Air Botswana.
Nevertheless, the Namibian environment and tourism minister Pohamba Shifeta said transformation is a process and KAZA TFCA is making good progress in this regard. “However, some barriers (which are rather challenges) like not being at the same level at country level on tourism development and different policies are being experienced. These will be overcome by the KAZA TFCA Tourism and Marketing Strategy that is being developed. Stakeholders met in Maun, Botswana last week to discuss this strategy before it is brought to the Committee of Ministers for approval later this year,” Shifeta said.
On poaching Shifeta said a number of strategies have been put in place including increase of personnel on the ground, but added: “We cannot elaborate further on our strategies but we have seen a reduction on poaching incidents over the years.”
KAZA was declared as a trans-frontier park in 2006 through the signing of a Memorandum of Understanding between the five participating countries.
Among the achievements includes the formation of an Integrated Development Plan (IDPs) at country level as well as other various joint projects aimed at improving natural resource management, land-use planning, tourism, infrastructure and alternative livelihood development as well as human-wildlife conflict.
Mtsambiwa said the IDPs outline the summary of the needs and expectations of conservationists, wildlife managers, safari and business operators, foresters, as well as local communities of each country.
“KAZA has been doing consultation meetings in member countries especially with communities that fall under this conservation to assist them on how to avoid human-wildlife conflict because wherever humans and animals depend on a shared natural environment,” he said.
“Their different needs and interests often spell conflict and KAZA role here is to create peaceful and viable coexistence as well as to creating wildlife corridors, which animals can safely navigate without causing any harm,” Mtsambiwa said
While applauding the member states and international partners financial support to KAZA, Mtsambiwa nevertheless admitted that finance is a major challenge facing the institution for it to successfully carry out all its planned programmes.
The German Federal Ministry for Economic Cooperation and Development (BMZ) is the biggest foreign donor to KAZA, that contributed 35.5 million Euros via the KfW Development Bank so far.
The headquarters of the Sioma Ngwezi National Park, in south western Zambia was built with financial support to the KAZ-TFCA, from the German Government.
Mtsambiwa said the national park is the first of its kind to be developed under the KAZA-TFCA initiative, with many more to be development throughout the KAZA Landscape, in the next two years.
The infrastructure comprises of one high cost, 4 medium cost, and 20 low cost staff houses, and office accommodation constructed at a total cost of just above one million euros, he said.
Sioma Ngwezi National Park Headquarters, Mtsambiwa said is expected to provide the wildlife officials with a decent place to live and work, and untimely boost their morale in carrying out their duties.
“The sustainable management of wildlife resource in Sioma Ngwezi National Park, as a result of this infrastructure, will not only benefit the Republic of Zambia alone, but will ultimately benefit the other four countries that share wildlife species with Zambia,” he said.
Apart from Simon Ngwezi, the institution has also introduced other programmes to source funds such as the introduction of a Univisa for tourists visiting the KAZA areas.
“In order to finance our programme and make it sustainable, we decided to develop and expand eco-tourism in the area through a single visa. Tourists will eventually be allowed a month of unrestricted travel in the KAZA areas of all five countries. Zambia and Zimbabwe already offer this visa, and the remaining three KAZA partner (Namibia, Angola and Botswana) countries are set to follow,” he said.

Source: KAZA-TFCA is not a white elephant (13/04/16)

Tuesday 12 April 2016

Victoria Falls hotel to undergo facelift

Rainbow Tourism Group (RTG) has started the refurbishment of its Kadoma and Victoria Falls hotels, as it renews its tourism product. The exercise is expected to cost $1,5 million.
In emailed responses, RTG chief executive officer Tendai Madziwanyika said the group expected to complete the refurbishment of both hotels by year-end, saying work on Kadoma Hotel and Conference Centre began in the first quarter of 2016.
“The project includes new flooring, with the carpets replaced with tiling, new beds and bedroom furniture, bathroom tiling, new curtaining and linen, installation of solar geysers, a new reception counter, and repainting of the hotel interior and exterior,” he said.
“For Victoria Falls Rainbow Hotel the refurbishment will include new bedroom furniture, tiling
of bedrooms and bathrooms, new bathrooms, repainting of the hotel interior and exterior and upgrades of the conference rooms.”
He said the hotels would remain open to guests during the period of refurbishment without any distractions.
Madziwanyika said apart from the two projects, the hospitality group would continually upgrade all of its hotels to meet and exceed guests’ expectations which include the installation of two new customised elevators at the Rainbow Towers Hotel by July 2016.
“In line with this imperative we continue to conduct improvements of the product in all our
hotels. Of note will be the installation of two new customised lifts at the Rainbow Towers Hotel
by July 2016. We have opened a brand new venue on the Roof Top of the New Ambassador Hotel,” he said.
“This venue called the ‘The Breeze on the Roof Top’ offers an open air and pleasant environment for banqueting or conferencing activities. We also opened an executive bar on the ground floor called ‘The Fortress at 88’. At Bulawayo Rainbow Hotel we are completing installation of new air conditioning units for all bedrooms, public areas and restaurants,” he said.
Commenting on RTG Virtual, Madziwanyika said the product achieved gross revenues of $750 000 (value of the business channelled to RTG Virtual Partners), of which RTG earned in excess of $70 000 in net commission.
He, however, said the group was targeting to close the year at 51% group occupancy and revenue per available room of $36.
“We anticipate continued growth in our foreign business segment, which as you know grew by 6% in 2015. We believe it will continue to ameliorate the difficult domestic liquidity situation to assure growth in our revenues going forward,” Madziwanyika said.
RTG recorded flat revenue performance for the year ended 2015 as compared to the same period in 2014, closing the year on $30,6 million.
Despite the flat performance RTG registered growth in occupancy and foreign business.
Occupancy grew by 4% to 50% from 48%, while foreign business revenues grew to $9,28 million from $8,75 million recorded in the corresponding period prior year.

Monday 11 April 2016

Wild Horizons to manage Vic Falls property

Wild Horizons has been awarded a management and marketing agreement for The Stanley and Livingstone Private Game Reserve, Victoria Falls, for five years, effective January 2016.  

There is a boutique hotel on the reserve, which has Big 5 game viewing opportunities and is minutes from the Falls.

Salim Bitar, CEO of Real Estate and Hospitality for Aujan Group Holding, which own The Stanley and Livingstone Private Game Reserve, said: “We are proud to align with Wild Horizons, who support our brand growth and conservation strategy. I believe that the reputation of The Stanley and Livingstone Private Game Reserve coupled with its association with Wild Horizons will enable this unique lodge to achieve its full potential and pave the way for a successful collaboration for many years to come.”

Gary Archer, CEO of Wild Horizons said: “Wild Horizons is delighted to add The Stanley and Livingstone as a partner and we believe that the management by Wild Horizons will result in improved operating results at the lodges. This addition will give our guests another unique option to choose from in the Zambezi region.”

Source: Wild Horizons to manage Vic Falls property (11/04/16)

Friday 8 April 2016

Victoria Falls arrivals down 5%

TOURIST arrivals at Zimbabwe’s premier resort, Victoria Falls, were down 5% in the first quarter of 2016 due to depreciation of regional currencies, an official has said.
Employers’ Association of Tourism and Safari Operators president, Clement Mukwasi, told NewsDay that tourist arrivals were declining as regional currencies get weaker, making Zimbabwe more expensive compared to its neighbours.
The rand collapsed to over R16 against the United States dollar in June 2015 and as of yesterday it was trading at R14,8 against the greenback.
Giving his presentation on current and future trends in travel and tourism in Zimbabwe at the 2016 Tourism Convention held in Victoria Falls recently, Zimbabwe Tourism Authority chief executive Karikoga Kaseke said the country has become a very expensive destination compared to other competitors in the region.
“There is very poor service in the tourism industry and personnel lack passion in serving customers, a major key to success in tourism business,” he said then.
Kaseke said brand Zimbabwe was not doing very well in major source markets and there was poor destination accessibility.
“(There is) lack of adequate and quality transport services (local, regional and international), and also an absence of a strong national airline, poor facilitation at ports, particularly Beitbridge, and also poor access to attractions — dysfunctional feeder roads,” he said.
He also said there was lack of real skills to drive efficient service delivery in the industry.
Mukwasi said currently, hotels in the resort town were fully booked due to church conferences that were going on in Victoria Falls.
He envisaged a slight improvement in the second quarter when regional currencies were expected to stablise.
Source: Victoria Falls arrivals down 5% (06/04/16)