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Wednesday 29 June 2016

Zimbabwe national parks boss suspended in probe over missing rhino horn

The head of Zimbabwe's national parks authority has been suspended as part of a probe into 228kg of missing rhino horn, it was reported on Tuesday.
In a move that will shake trust in the embattled Zimbabwe Parks and Wildlife Management Authority (Zimparks), Edson Chidziya has been sent on forced leave for 60 days "in order for him not to interfere with the probe", according to the official Herald newspaper.
A ZimParks board statement quoted by the privately-owned Newsday said: "This follows anomalies in the rhino horn stockpiles amounting to 228kg."
Chidziya was appointed in 2013. Parks staff have previously been implicated in the attempted smuggling of ivory: last October a senior ecologist and two game rangers tried to smuggle at least eight elephant tusks through Harare International Airport. 
Zimbabwe has over five tons of rhino horn in stock. Some of this is recovered from rhinos that have been killed by poachers who did not have time to take the horn before the dead rhinos were discovered by the authorities.
The latest poaching reported in Zimbabwe was that of an elderly female rhino at the Thetford reserve outside Harare two weeks ago. 
Rhino poaching worsened last year, where only around 800 black and white rhinos are left across the country. A female baby rhino has just been born in a Zimbabwe reserve, it was reported this week.
Chidziya will be on full pay during his suspension.

Victoria Falls budgets $6m for road projects

Victoria Falls Municipality has set aside about $6 million for the rehabilitation of roads and servicing of new streets in the resort town. Town Clerk Mr Christopher Dube told The Chronicle that council will fund the project and the two main roads in the industrial area and several other streets in Mkhosana and Chinotimba suburbs would be covered.

The local authority has engaged private developers for the project that will start on Friday.

“We’re going to rehabilitate roads starting from the industrial area, Mkhosana and Chinotimba suburbs,” said Mr Dube. He said the project will be in three phases and will last for seven months.

Phase 1 will involve the rehabilitation of roads especially in the industrial area while phases two and three will see the servicing of new roads. Mr Dube said a number of roads in the town will be barricaded to allow construction work to go ahead.

He said there would be new roads in the Buffer Zone and BB7 where new suburbs will be built. “We’re looking at redoing some of the roads especially the two major roads in the industrial area from near Wild Horizons. “Servicing will take place at almost the same time on the Buffer Zone,” Mr Dube said.

“We want to encourage residents and motorists to be careful as most roads will be closed during this exercise. During this time there will be movement of heavy equipment which shall necessitate closure of selected roads and the general public are advised to exercise caution and use alternative routes.”

Source: Victoria Falls budgets $6m for road projects (28/06/16)

Thursday 23 June 2016

African Sun retrenches over 200

Zimbabwe Stock Exchange-listed hospitality group, African Sun, said it has retrenched nearly 250 employees as a survival strategy in the face of dwindling tourists’ arrivals and the harsh economic environment.

The group’s managing director, Edwin Shangwa, said the staff rationalisation exercise will result in improved efficiency.

“In 2015, our corporate oversight structure was streamlined for cost and operational efficiency resulting in a headcount reduction from 42 to 14 purpose-fit and focussed professionals,” he said in the hotelier’s annual report published recently.

“Our hotels shed 219 employees by way of retrenchment to ensure employment cost shifts closer to a semi-variable as opposed to fixed cost model as our business is highly seasonal and cyclical,” he added.

Shangwa noted that the gains of the headcount restructuring process are expected to manifest, embed and deliver financial value in 2016 and operational efficiencies. “Cost reduction initiatives which are already underway will certainly drive performance,” he said.

The latest development comes after African Sun, which was spun off from Delta Corporation in 2003 to unlock shareholder value, went through a transition from a hotel operating company to a hotel investment management company with effect from October last year.

The change in business model resulted in the strategic business units being classified as hotels under management, franchised hotels, owner managed hotels and the Victoria Falls hotel partnership. Shangwa said this also resulted in the appointment of the Legacy Group of Hotels to manage five hotels.

“Legacy Hotels and Resorts owns and manages a collection of four and five-star hotels, bush lodges, leisure resorts and casino resorts in key tourism and business locations throughout Africa and is expanding into the emerging European and Middle Eastern markets.

“This new model also saw an enhanced and improved relationship with Intercontinental Hotels Group,” he added.

African Sun, which recently exited some of its loss-making operations in Ghana and Beitbridge, recorded an $8,31 million loss in the 15 months to December 2015 compared to a loss of $2,29 million posted in the previous corresponding period.

In the period under review, the group’s revenue decreased by eight percent to $63,15 million due to a noticeable decline in the average monthly revenues during the period under review.

The drop in average monthly revenue was mainly as a result of a five percent reduction in the average daily rate from $98 achieved last year to $93.

The listed hotel group said the average daily rate drop was partially attributable to the introduction of 15 percent value added tax on foreign revenue.

“Occupancy marginally increased to 49 percent from 48 percent. The effect of the drop in the average daily rate and the marginal increase in occupancy was a four percent drop in revenue per available room from $47 to $45,” the hotelier said.

African Sun hotels include Holiday Inn in Harare and Bulawayo, Elephant Hills (Victoria Falls), Troutbeck Inn (Nyanga), Caribbea Bay (Kariba), Beitbridge Express, Monomotapa Hotel (Harare), Great Zimbabwe (Masvingo), Victoria Falls Hotel, Kingdom at Victoria Falls, and Hwange Safari Lodge.

Source: African Sun retrenches over 200 (21/06/16)

Thursday 16 June 2016

Tourist arrivals increase

Victoria Falls - Tourist arrivals in Victoria Falls, Zimbabwe’s prime resort are projected to skyrocket in the third quarter of the year, with accommodation bookings already at 30%, an industry official has said. Employers’ Association of Tourism and Safari Operators president, Clement Mukwasi, told NewsDay that they were looking forward to recording brisk business in the third quarter due to the coming in of the European and American markets. The third quarter runs from July 1 to September 30.

“Figures are actually rising and we are very happy about that. The third quarter of 2016 is looking very good and we hope we will keep the trend to 2017. Actually, from July to August this year, hotel bookings suddenly shot up to 30% from the European and American market,” Mukwasi, who is also an executive of the Shearwater Adventures group, said.

“From now up to September, we are very busy. Some people are starting to increase their accommodation capacity and some are recalling employees they had laid off.”

Mukwasi attributed good business to international shows the government and private sector attended in countries such as Germany, United Kingdom, South Africa, among others.

“We are basking in glory and I am sure every player is smiling because it’s looking very good. The only month, which has low booking is November because Americans usually dedicate their money to charity work during that period,” he said.

Mukwasi said even December was almost fully booked and urged locals to book early as they will fail to secure accommodation if they come late.

He said Victoria Falls had overtaken Livingstone in terms of arrivals in the third quarter.
Mukwasi ruled out fears that pockets of violence being experienced in Zimbabwe would affect their businesses.

Source: Tourist arrivals increase (15/7/16)

Monday 13 June 2016

Vic Falls a $4,8bn cash cow: Minister

ZIMBABWE and Zambia have potential to generate about $4,8 billion per year from tourist arrivals through Victoria Falls International Airport once the upgrading exercise is complete, a Cabinet Minister has said. In 2013, the government embarked on a $150 million rehabilitation programme of the airport, whose commissioning is expected at the end of next month.

Responding to questions in Parliament last Wednesday, Tourism and Hospitality Industry Minister Walter Mzembi said prior to the United Nations World Tourism Organisation General Assembly in Victoria Falls in 2010, the government initiated the airport project so that it would go forward to receive and process more visitors.

He said before the development of the Victoria Falls International Airport, the airport handled about 500,000 visitors per year.

“We anticipate that Victoria Falls alone will process between 1,8 million to two million visitors per year. If you combine the added on infrastructure from Zambia, we should be doing between three and four million visitors going forward,” Mzembi said.

“If each visitor comes to spend in the Victoria Falls, our average spent for international tourism is $1,200 per visitor. You can do your own computation and see how much $1,200 times four million will give you. It’s $4.8 billion, which is bigger than the size of our fiscal budget, just coming through Victoria Falls alone.”

The Victoria Falls International Airport expansion project involves construction of a four-kilometre runway, extension of the existing runway, erection of a new terminal building, and road network and car park.

Mzembi said his ministry together with the Ministry of Transport and Infrastructural Development would make sure by the time the airport is commissioned at least five airline agreements would have been signed.

Last year, Mzembi expressed optimism that Zimbabwe was set to earn a whopping $5 billion annually when work to revamp its tourism infrastructure is completed.

Source: Vic Falls a $4,8bn cash cow: Minister (13/06/16)

Victoria Falls receives $ 80, 000 UN boost

THE United Nations World Tourism Organisation General Assembly (UNWTO) has allocated a further $80,000 to Victoria Falls town for legacy projects as a pat on the back for successfully co-hosting the historic UNWTO General Assembly in 2013.

Victoria Falls co-hosted the event with Livingstone in Zambia and were promised $47,500 each for legacy projects.

UNWTO technical corporations’ manager Marcel Leijzer last week visited Victoria Falls with a delegation from Spain and announced an additional $80, 000.

While $47, 500 will be used to upgrade a swimming pool into a state-of-the-art multi-purpose facility that will boost tourism by attracting international events, the $80, 000 is meant for youth and women projects.

“We are glad to announce a grant of $80, 000 meant for youth and women legacy projects here in Victoria Falls. This adds to the $47,500 that is set to come for legacy projects,” said Leijzer before crossing to Livingstone on a similar mission.

He said the legacy projects are “a good initiative since we only have swimming pools at hotels. This will bring tourists closer to people.”

In 2014, Tourism and Hospitality Industry Minister, Walter Mzembi, announced the legacy projects but the money has not been released yet.

The Victoria Falls business community suggested that the money be used to construct a swimming pool with a multi-activity facility to attract world competitions and boost tourism.

Receiving the offer, Permanent Secretary for the Ministry of Tourism and Hospitality Industry, Florence Nhekairo, who was represented by the director of international tourism, Francisca Ziyambo, said the legacy projects would transform the resort town.

“The two projects will transform Victoria Falls and the country in years to come. We are grateful to the UNWTO for the sponsorship which will enhance youth and women participation in tourism,” she said.

Nhekairo said the projects will boost tourism in line with Zim-Asset.

Chairperson of the Victoria Falls legacy committee, Olga Mutamba, said the money was overdue since the announcement two years ago.

“We hope this visit will lead to the release of the funds so that we start work on the ground. We are waiting for signing of the agreement to release funds,” she said.

Victoria Falls, which government wants to transform into a conference capital, has been hosting international conferences but reaping minimal benefits.

It has CHOGM Park, which was constructed after the Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting (CHOGM) Summit and Emaplankeni, a brainchild of Comesa, as post-summit legacy projects. The town hopes to ride on legacy projects for development.

Source: Victoria Falls receives $ 80, 000 UN boost (12/06/16)

Friday 10 June 2016

Lobengula's Spear Stolen

A GOLD coated spear and artefacts belonging to the last Ndebele King, Lobengula, have been stolen from Old Bulawayo with the National Museums and Monuments of Zimbabwe (NMMZ) coming under fire for poor security.

The spear, measuring 1,2m, was stolen from the historic site on the outskirts of Bulawayo where other artefacts of the Ndebele Kingdom are kept. The incident was discovered on Sunday by a caretaker at Old Bulawayo. Sources said the caretaker, Stanley Gwebu, discovered that the spear, a 45cm black fly-whisk and a small brown clay pot which were placed near King Lobengula's statue, were missing at around 1:45pm while conducting his chores and reported the matter to the police.
Police chief national spokesperson Senior Assistant Commissioner Charity Charamba confirmed the incident saying police were looking into the matter.
"I can confirm that there was a burglary at Old Bulawayo where some artefacts were stolen. But I don't have the finer details on the matter. However, police are investigating the matter," said Snr Asst Comm Charamba.
King Lobengula's descendent, Prince Zwide Khumalo, expressed shock at the incident saying the family had not been notified of the theft. Khumalo rapped the NMMZ for failing to provide adequate security at the historic site saying royal artefacts deserved to be kept in a more secure place.
"It raises a lot of concerns within the family, the Ndebele speaking people as well as other Nguni ethnic groups whose history was being kept at Old Bulawayo. There is something grossly wrong with the security at the national museums. This is not the first time there has been a break in at the museums meaning there is a weakness in their security system," he said.
Khumalo said the museums should remember that they are custodians of people's cultures.
Social commentator Cont Mhlanga echoed Khumalo's sentiments saying the break in exposes NMMZ for its recklessness in preserving culture.
"This is not the first time such an incident has happened. There was a break in four or five years ago. Mahachi (Godfrey director of NMMZ) must address this issue. This falls right on his door step," said Mhlanga.
He said it was baffling that a cultural site like Old Bulawayo was neglected yet it held priceless artefacts. "It doesn't make sense that a heritage site of that status can have a single caretaker. There is supposed to be more than one caretaker so that they can work in shifts," Mhlanga said.
He said there were other cultural sites that are also neglected such as Mhlahlandlela and Entumbane which house King Mzilikazi's grave and artefacts.
Mahachi was not reachable for comment yesterday.
Source: Lobengula's Spear Stolen (9/06/16)