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Monday 31 July 2017

Victoria Falls to get $10m mall

CONSTRUCTION of a $10 million up-market shopping mall in Victoria Falls is expected to start anytime soon.

The complex will be built by Zimre Property Investment (ZPI). ZPI chief executive officer Mr Edson Muvingi said work at the site was expected to start before the end of the year.

"We estimate a period of 13 to 18 months to complete the project. We expect to commence works on the ground this side of the year upon completion and obtaining all approvals. The approval processes are at an advanced stage including the Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA). We estimate a total cost in the region of $10 million to complete the project," said Mr Muvingi.

The Sawanga shopping mall would house offices, internet cafes, bookshops, banks, boutiques, hair salons, restaurants, motor spares shops, medical centre, theatres, cultural centre and gymnasium, among others. An elaborate sewage and water reticulation system would be put in place with access roads being constructed for easy vehicular movement.

"We have completed land acquisition and we are in the finalisation of the design, taking into account the needs of prospective tenants. We are also working on EIA report submission including stakeholder consultations which is ongoing and towards finalisation," said Mr Muvingi.

Zimre, which is both into residential and commercial property development, seeks to tap into the anticipated business boom on the back of an influx of tourists in the resort town.
"We felt the need to diversify our portfolio and create high class real estate assets. We were also motivated by the investment opportunity that exists in Victoria Falls for real estate development, particularly a good retail facility and the future growth potential of the tourist town. We were also prompted to consider investing in the property after a survey of the town we carried out in relation to retail facilities including Livingstone on the Zambian side as well as the excellent town management by the Victoria Falls Town Council and the business manner which they facilitate investment," said Mr Muvingi.

The property developer's environmental consultancy firm, Environmental Guardians Services' senior consultant Mr Michael Montana said compilation of the EIA report was almost complete and would soon be handed over to the Environmental Management Agency (Ema) for consideration.

"We are only left with submitting an EIA report to Ema. We had two consultative meetings and one feedback meeting that were very successful. In attendance at one of the meetings was Environment Africa-Zimbabwe-Zambia-Malawi-Mozambique chief executive officer Ms Charlene Hewat.

"We are however, still waiting for a comment from the Victoria Falls Municipality and for them to inform whether they have the capacity to manage the refuse and sewer generated from the complex. There is also the modification of Spencer Road belonging to the local authority which will be used for the dropping off of commuters as well as entrance into the complex," said Mr Montana.

He said the mall was also expected to offer affordable venues for local and international conferences.

"The project is expected to provide much needed formal and affordable businesses for the communities in Victoria Falls. There are several conferences that are hosted in Victoria Falls in conjunction with Zambia, attracting many delegates. The nature of the development will minimise negative environmental impacts and promote sustainability as the proposed plan blends in with the existing infrastructure and services. It will also promote urban restructuring, sustainable communities, and environmental and economic sustainability," said Mr Montana.

Environmental Guardians Services is one of the country's most reputable environmental firms which has carried out a number of projects across various sectors of the economy especially in Matabeleland region and the Midlands Province.

Source: Victoria Falls to get $10m mall (30/07/17)

Friday 28 July 2017

Tourism ministry engages police over roadblocks

HARARE - The Tourism ministry is continuing with efforts to have police reduce the ubiquitous roadblocks which have seen international tourists turning their backs on the country.
Apart from scaring international tourists, the many roadblocks have led to a national outcry by the local motoring public which accuses police of harassment and at times, corruption during the discharge of their duties at these stops.

The Zimbabwe Council for Tourism (ZCT), which represents the country’s major tourism players, yesterday said the Tourism and Hospitality ministry was in conversation with police over the roadblocks.

“We have in the past drawn attention to obstacles to such growth and in this regard I would like to remind operators that Zimbabwe Council of Tourism continues to push for reduction of roadblocks, improvement of all roads, introduction of reliable and affordable air transport around the country and the creation of an acceptable, smooth and efficient system of arrival and departure procedures at Beitbridge Border Post,” ZCT president Tich Hwingwiri told a media briefing.

“Bottom line is, we are simply seeking a win-win situation where number one, the security of the nation cannot be negotiated, we are fully aware of that and we are also saying business viability is a model that needs to be attained and our business is dependent on arrivals, the more arrivals, the more business we make…hence the inconveniences that our guys continue to face.

“It’s a song that we will continue to sing up to a point where we all have a common understanding of the way forward and I am very much encouraged with the deliberations that we have been involved in,” Hwingwiri said.

Tourists have voiced distress over the ubiquitous presence of Zimbabwe Republic Police (ZRP) details on the country's roads, with over half of respondents in a Zimbabwe National Statistical Agency (Zimstat) survey saying they felt harassed by the cops.

Harassment by the police constituted the highest percentage of the reasons not to recommend the country to potential tourists, at 43,2 percent, followed by harassment by Zimbabwe Revenue Authority (Zimra) officers at 14,7 percent.

Home Affairs minister Ignatius Chombo has said police had been instructed to decongest roadblocks through a directive which allowed one roadblock within a 10km radius to promote ease of doing business.

Instead, police have actually increased the roadblocks.

In their report for the first half of 2017, police made nearly $14 million from roadblocks and made a million arrests for traffic violations.

Meanwhile, Hwingwiri said that the number of visitors has significantly improved in Victoria Falls after government recently commissioned a $150 million international airport that has spurred brisk tourism business in the resort town.

This comes after Kenya Airways and Ethiopian Airways in April introduced direct flights to Victoria Falls from Nairobi and Addis Ababa, respectively.

Hwingiri also announced that Finance minister Patrick Chinamasa has also set aside efforts by the Zimra to retrospectively collect Value Added Tax on food and beverages sold as part of packaged accommodation between 2009 and 2015.

Source: Tourism ministry engages police over roadblocks (26/07/17)

Govt reverses backdated tourism VAT Zimra mustn’t ambush taxpayers

Africa Moyo Business Reporter

Finance and Economic Development Minister Patrick Chinamasa has waived the backdated Value Added Tax (VAT) accruing on food and beverages offered by the tourism industry as part of packaged accommodation between 2009 and 2015.

Zimra had launched a blitz on tourism operators who were accused of not paying 15 percent on both the withholding tax on commissions and VAT on food sold to foreigners as part of the accommodation package.

The VAT, which was backdated to 2009, has since been removed following representations by Tourism and Hospitality Industry Minister Dr Walter Mzembi and the tourism sector, to Minister Chinamasa.

Hoteliers, especially those operating in Victoria Falls, had been slapped with a combined $5,3 million bill in unpaid taxes by the Zimbabwe Revenue Authority (Zimra).

The Victoria Safari Lodge was handed a $1,26 million bill while the Victoria Falls Hotel was in arrears to the tune of $4,1 million. Zimra argued that the taxes were supposed to have been paid between 2009 and 2015.

The Zimbabwe Council for Tourism (ZCT), together with its parent ministry, have been arguing that compelling hoteliers to pay the bills would cripple their operations, especially at a time when the destination is increasingly being shunned by tourists because of high costs.

Hoteliers claim they were not charging the VAT based in part on the “informal and non-binding advice from Zimra, which did not conform to the procedures stipulated in the Revenue Authority Act”.

But on July 18, 2017, Minister Chinamasa wrote to Dr Mzembi saying the “retrospective collection of the outstanding VAT obligations will undermine the viability and going concern of most tourism operators, since no VAT can reciprocally be collected from transient clients”.

“In view of the above and taking into account the important role that tourism plays in the growth and development of the economy, Treasury has approved the VAT zero-rating of food and beverages sold as part of packaged meals for the period February 2009 and December 2015,” said Minister Chinamasa.

Yesterday, ZCT president Mr Tich Hwingwiri told journalists that the tourism industry “welcomes the decision . . . to set aside efforts by Zimra to retrospectively collect VAT on food and beverages sold as part of packaged accommodation between 2009 and 2015.

“Since this decision was announced, ZCT has been working behind the scenes with relevant authorities to have this decision set aside, principally because it was prejudicial to the financial viability of operators across the country, who could not, of course, claim back VAT from the guests who had purchased these services.

“The amounts involved were substantial and were a significant threat to the viability of all operators,” said Mr Hwingwiri.

The waiver of the backdated VAT comes at a time when Government is continuing to give rebates to the tourism sector particularly to expenditure on capital items.

This has helped the sector to retool, modernise and refurbish their properties. Several hotel groups such as Cresta, Rainbow Tourism Group and African Sun have already splashed huge sums of refreshing their businesses so as to appeal to a wider section of tourists.

Source: Govt reverses backdated tourism VAT (26/07/17)

More: Zimra mustn’t ambush taxpayers (27/07/17)

Thursday 27 July 2017

Elephant shot dead after trampling handler to death as British tourists waited for rides at Victoria Falls

An elephant was shot dead after trampling his handler to death as British tourists queued for rides on the animal at popular holiday hot-spot, Victoria Falls.
Mbajane the bull elephant, which translates to 'cannabis', charged at Enock Kufandada, 50, before repeatedly stamping his body into the ground on the Zambia - Zimbabwe border.
Park rangers were called in to control the horrific scene as officials ushered tourists from the UK, America and Australia to safety.
Mbajane was still in a rage and deemed a danger to others after the incident so he was brought down and killed with several high velocity bullets.
Workers said Mr Kufandada had been attacked twice before by the same elephant but survived.
Clement Mukwasi of the Employers Association of Tourism and Safari Operators said “The profession of elephant handling is a high risk one and deaths happen.
“We can confirm this sad incident which is the third in the last 10 years” he said.
Handler Mr Kufandada appears to have his left arm torn off along with both legs and it is not clear if he has been impaled with the stick used to control the elephant.
His blood soaked body was covered with sack cloth until the local police force had been called to the scene and then it was removed from the tourist area at Victoria Falls.
Mr Mukwasi hinted that elephants can “keep grudges” for many years against a handler if it has ever been mistreated during the process of training it for tourist rides.
Witnesses told local media that they heard screams and found the dead body torn apart and the 30-year-old bull elephant nearby clearly still enraged and in a bad temper.
The World Animal Protection action group said in a statement that the incident was "another sad reminder that elephants are wild animals and should not be ridden."
Two years ago a curio-seller was trampled to death by an elephant which had strayed into a shopping centre in Victoria Falls which is on the border with Zambia.
Glynnis Vaughan, chief inspector of the Zimbabwe National Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals, claims African elephants can never be “domesticated”.
She said: “Captured elephants which are used by several tourist companies have killed quite a few people in recent years. We should not be surprised when there are tragedies.
“Elephants are captured in the wild when they are young and taken from their families and teaching a young elephant to kneel so a tourist an mount it is vicious and it is cruel”.
Several large companies in Victoria Falls still provide rides for tourists on their elephants, most of which were captured and taken from their families.
There are a number of companies at Victoria Falls - one of Africa's most spectacular places to visit - which cater for tourist rides on African elephants.
Just last week game rangers shot and killed two other elephants which had roamed into the provincial capital of Mutare, East Zimbabwe, and killed a policeman.
Bankrupt Zimbabwe has been exporting dozens of young elephants to China in recent years for wildlife safari parks that have since been condemned by inspectors.
Tour operators at the Falls desperate to protect their livelihoods said the killing of the professional elephant handler was "a freak accident - one in a million".
Zimbabwe National Parks and Wildlife Management Authority rangers shot and killed the elephant which was used by the tour operator Adventure Zone.
Mr Kufandada was preparing to take the bull elephant which he had worked with for many years out of its pen for a tourist ride when it attacked and killed him.
Victoria Falls District Chief Superintendent of police Jairos Chiwona said: "I confirm we received a report of a man who was attacked and killed by a domesticated elephant".
The rogue elephant Mbanje was grazing with a female jumbo called Nkanyiso after a ride and was about to go out for another after a group of tourists arrived for a ride.
The victims’ son Shepherd said: “We were told my father was rounding up the elephant when he was attacked. I don’t know what we will do as he was the breadwinner.
“I went with my fathers workmates to help pick up the scattered body parts”.
The married father-of-two will be buried at his rural home village of Mutare.
Adventure Zone boss Mr Brent Wlliamson said: “I am in complete shock about the whole incident. This was one of our guides who had been working for us since 2005.
“It's with deep regret that we advise that at 2.30pm on Saturday our domesticated elephant bull charged one of our staff that resulted in him losing his life.
“Clement was an extremely competent member of staff who will be sorely missed” he said.

More on this story (external links):
Trained elephant kills handler (The Chronicle, 23/07/17))
Elephant 'domesticated' to give tourist rides at Victoria Falls kills handler (The Telegraph, 24/07/17)
Elephant used for tourist rides tramples handler to death before being shot dead  (The Independent, 25/07/17)
SA’s elephant industry under pressure to end elephant rides (10/06/17)
The truth behind elephant back riding in South Africa (25/11/16)
Can elephant tourism be ethical? (The Telegraph, 02/02/16)
Breaking Africa's elephants (pdf report, World Animal Protection Canada)

More captive elephant incidents (from this blog):  Captive elephant used in tourist elephant-back safaris kills handler (Livingstone, Zambia) (02/04/13)
Captive Elephant Used In Tourism Safaris Kills Handler In Victoria Falls (19/12/08)
Elephant-back Safaris “Simply Accidents Waiting to Happen” Warns Top Tourism Insurer (10/0/17)

Sunday 23 July 2017

Poacher arrested for causing over 100 elephant deaths in Hwange

Leonard Ncube & Nqobile Tshili, Chronicle Reporters

POLICE have arrested a suspected poacher for allegedly poisoning over 100 elephants using cyanide at Hwange National Park.

Tony Maphosa, who has been on the run since 2013, allegedly poisoned water points and salt pans with cyanide resulting in the death of more than 100 elephants.

Maphosa was arrested in the national park on Wednesday following a tip off.

An anti-poaching team comprising rangers from Zimbabwe Parks and Wildlife Management Authority and police recovered two pieces of ivory from him.

Zimparks spokesperson Mr Tinashe Farawo confirmed the arrest.

“A man from Tsholotsho was arrested on Wednesday with two elephant tusks,” he said.

Mr Farawo said an anti-poaching team was still on the ground in the national park following the killing of two elephants which were discovered on Monday in a suspected case of cyanide poisoning.
Police national spokesperson Chief Superintendent Paul Nyathi said he was yet to receive a report on the arrest.

However, police sources said Maphosa was detained at Dete Police Station and is expected to appear in court in Hwange in due course.

“He has been on the wanted list in connection with poisoning of elephants in 2013 and is also linked tothe death of eight elephants this year,” said a police source.

Meanwhile, two people have been jailed for nine years each for illegally possessing three pieces of ivory valued at $900 and 270 grammes of cyanide.

David Ndlovu (42) and Nkathazo Penga (33) confessed to killing five jumbos by lacing oranges with the deadly cyanide when they were arrested on July 4 at Cross Dete where they were selling the ivory. —@ncubeleon

Source: ‘Poacher kills’ over 100 elephants (22/07/17)

Thursday 20 July 2017

Zimbabwe to release 1 million hectares of protected land for mining

BULAWAYO, July 19 (The Source) — Zimbabwe is planning to release one million hectares of protected land to small-scale gold miners across the country to boost production, Mines and Development deputy minister, Fred Moyo has said, a development that threatens wildlife areas.
Moyo told journalists at the on-going Mining, Engineering and Transport (Mine Entra) expo that the land would be released very “soon”.
“The geology is largely gold so those provinces that have got more gold than others obviously will have more hectarage but we are releasing in all the provinces. It’s basically happening now and paperwork is in the process of being signed,” Moyo said.
“Remember these will be protected areas and we are removing the protection and once these are lifted people can go and peg in the normal way that they do. Last week I signed one in Mashonaland West, one in the Midlands, and there was one in Masvingo.”
Zimbabwe has six categories of protected land; national parks, gazetted forests, botanical reserves, botanical gardens, safari areas and 15 recreational parks and sanctuaries.
Zimbabwe Miners Federation president, Aplonia Munzverengwi told The Source that some miners were already mining in state-reserved areas.
“Right now, those activities they are informal and people are taking the gold to the black market. The (mines) ministry has now managed to identify those State reserved areas where they are going to release land,” she said.
“As soon as the land is officially released they should register their activities and they will be able to access loans from (government owned gold buyer) Fidelity, mechanisation and the working capital.”

Wednesday 19 July 2017

ZTA partners models to promote domestic tourism

From Leonard Ncube in Victoria Falls

THE Zimbabwe Tourism Authority (ZTA) has partnered with models whom they believe are the best tourism ambassadors to market the country’s destinations locally and internationally.

Last week, the tourism authority offered recently crowned Miss Mt Pleasant Constituency (Harare) Sikhulile Shumba and her two princesses Floreet Chikomwe and Vimbayi Mungofa a four-day holiday in Victoria Falls as one of their prizes for winning. By doing this, the ZTA wanted the models to have a feel of the country’s prime resort and help market it.

During their visit, the models – who arrived in Victoria Falls on Friday and flew back to Harare on Sunday – partook in activities such as gorge swing, bungee jumping, rafting and a game drive.
The Chronicle caught up with the three models who pledged to partner ZTA in marketing the country’s tourist attractions.

The queen, a 3rd year Sociology student at the University of Zimbabwe thanked ZTA for exposing them to the other side of Zimbabwe.

“This was my first time in Victoria Falls and it’s amazing. I want to thank ZTA for this opportunity and I promise to work hard to make sure this destination and all activities on offer are known locally and internationally,” Shumba said.

First princess, Chikomwe said the world’s 7th natural wonder is a must visit for everyone while Mungofa, an A Level student at Pace College in Harare was on cloud nine, promising to spread the gospel of domestic tourism so locals do not learn about the country’s resorts from foreigners.

“I’ll make sure all youths I interact with know about Victoria Falls than to be told by foreign tourists,” Mungofa said.

ZTA spokesperson Sugar Chagonda said they had given the models the package as a way to promote domestic tourism.

“As ZTA, our mandate is to market our destinations and when we get an opportunity we seize it. We pledged to send the winners to Victoria Falls because we want these models to appreciate and market our unique destinations when they interact with their colleagues locally and internationally,” said Chagonda.

Source: ZTA partners models to promote domestic tourism (18/07/17)

Wild Horizons basks in increased business

Leonard Ncube in Victoria Falls

ONE of the leading tour operators in Victoria Falls, Wild Horizons, says it is enjoying a new lease of life in business on the back of increasing demand for its services.

The commissioning of the $150 million new look Victoria Falls International Airport by President Mugabe last year in November has resulted in increased arrivals to the country’s prime resort town.
Wild Horizons has business interests in Zimbabwe, Botswana, Zambia and South Africa. It recently introduced a luxury cruise to add to the traditional sunset and lunchtime cruise, which are a favourite for most tourists. The company’s sales manager, Mr Titus Maseko, told journalists during a media tour in Victoria Falls recently that the firm was now handling above 500 clients per day.

“In a single day we transfer over 500 people in and around Victoria Falls where about 90 percent of our clients are international,” he said.

Mr Maseko said there was high demand for the luxury cruise, with the company running five different kinds of boats on the Mighty Zambezi.

“Demand for luxury cruise is now 90 percent while most people also do sunset cruise because of the general increase in tourist arrivals in Victoria Falls. We run standard cruise boats, a 28-seater, 30-seater as well as 60 and 80-seater and sometimes we sub-hire.

“The most encouraging thing is it seems the perception of Zimbabwe as a destination has changed and people no longer view us as a risky area. This, together with new facilities as the airport and accommodation facilities, has attracted new attention,” he said.

Wild Horizons is into ground handling, activities and accommodation. The company ventured into tourism in the 1990s but established itself as Wild Horizons in 2004 as an amalgamation of individual companies. It also does transfers in and around Victoria Falls extending to Botswana and Zambia.

Major activities include white water rafting, tour of the Rainforest, gorge swing, elephant back safari, elephant ride and encounter, game drives, cruises, canoeing, fishing, helicopter flight among others.
The top adventure tour operator now offers accommodation facilities at Elephant Camp, Imbabala Safari Lodge and lately Stanley and Livingstone.

Over the years the operator was surviving on budget travellers and overlanders. It now has grown to be the biggest tour operator in Zimbabwe.

As such, Mr Maseko said their target market was foreign as the company’s motto is to empower indigenous operators by not competing with them.

“We don’t want to take business from indigenous local operators hence our focus is where local companies can’t go. This is why we hand over our overspills to local indigenous operators,” he said adding that they do not usually offer specials to tourists with a view that a three-tier system is not good for the industry.

Mr Maseko said Wild Horizons, which employs over 400 people, will contribute to the growth of the Special Economic Zones (SEZs) where Victoria Falls is one of the pilot areas alongside Bulawayo and Harare.

He said for SEZ in Victoria Falls to prosper, there was a need for a policy that can ensure the destination retains part of revenue realised there.

“Victoria Falls needs to retain a certain amount of resources and we hope whatever is going to happen with the SEZ will work towards that.

“We need development in terms of academic facilities, which would then translate to employment of locals. All along locals have been losing out because there are no colleges in Matabeleland North hence companies recruit students elsewhere who end up getting the available jobs,” said Mr Maseko.
Besides accommodation, Wild Horizons also operates Lookout Café, the only restaurant with a view of the gorge and specialises in lunches when everyone is focusing on dinners. Mr Maseko said the company was able to cope with demand and always strategises for clients.

Wild Horizons is also active in community development where it had over the years donated to charity, wildlife management, anti-poaching as well as running a wildlife trust where orphaned and injured wildlife is treated and taken care of with schoolchildren being taken in for educational interactions free of charge every Friday.

Source: Wild Horizons basks in increased business (17/07/17)

Tuesday 18 July 2017

Baboon causes power cut in Livingstone, Zambia

A baboon in Zambia has tampered with the cables at a power station in the south of the country leaving 50,000 people without electricity.
It caused the blackout on Sunday morning by climbing into the power station and pulling at the lines.
The baboon survived the "massive electric shock" that would have killed a human being, a power company spokesman said.
A person would also have been prosecuted, Henry Kapata added.
The baboon was rescued by a wildlife organisation and is now recovering but has "serious wounds", he told the BBC.
The power station is in the Zambian tourist city of Livingstone, where it is common for wild animals to be roaming around as it near a national park, the BBC's Kennedy Gondwe says.
Electricity has now been restored to the affected customers in Livingstone and the nearby Western Province.
In a similar incident last year, a monkey caused a nationwide power outage in Kenya.
More from this blog: Baboons

Monday 17 July 2017

New airlines boost Vic Falls tourism boom

HARARE - The recently-commissioned $150 million Victoria Falls International Airport has spurred brisk tourism business in the resort town.

This comes after Kenya Airways and Ethiopian Airways — in April — introduced direct flights to Victoria Falls from Nairobi and Addis Ababa respectively.

On the other hand, Rwandan Airlines, which introduced the Kigali-Harare direct flights during the same month and the Turkish Airlines have indicated that they might soon be flying into the newly-refurbished Victoria Falls International Airport.

The airport is poised to attract increased air traffic after it underwent a $150 million facelift which increased passenger handling capacity to 1,5 million per year, up from 500 000.

South African Airways introduced its new Airbus A330-300 aircraft on the Johannesburg-Victoria Falls route after the upgrading.

Hospitality Association of Zimbabwe (Haz) Victoria Falls chapter chairperson Christopher Svovah told the Daily News on Sunday that average hotel occupancy levels rose from 48 percent in the first quarter of 2016 to nearly 58 percent this year.

“We applaud the government for coming up with the open skies policy as this has resulted in a number of airlines such as Ethiopian Airlines, Kenya Airways and SA Airlink  among others bringing more tourists into Victoria Falls,” he said.

Svovah, who is also the Victoria Falls Rainbow Hotel general manager, said there was correlation between air connectivity and socio-economic growth.

“It enhances destination accessibility and connectivity and whenever there are airlines, there is socio-economic growth. This growth will not only be in Zimbabwe, but across the region.

“We anticipate that 90 000 new seats are coming into Victoria Falls and this will increase volumes for taxi drivers, food outlets, hotels and all other hospitality institutions,” he said.

The new international terminal has capacity to service 1,5 million people per annum and a new parallel 4 000 metres runway to cater for wide body aircraft in the class of Boeing 747.

Victoria Falls is the epicentre of a 500-kilometre radius, which includes one of the greatest rivers of the world, Zambezi, and a diverse number of wilderness areas ranging from the Okavango Delta and Chobe National Park in Botswana, Kafue National Park in Zambia, Hwange and Matusadona National Parks and Lake Kariba in Zimbabwe.

Svovah said the increase in tourist arrivals has seen various hospitality industry players coming up with new concepts and refurbishing existing ones to meet international standards and increased tourists’ demand.

African Sun Limited chief executive Edwin Shangwa said the listed hospitality group recently completed repainting of its Elephant Hills Resort and Conference Centre exterior in the resort area.

“The Victoria Falls Hotel second phase refurbishment is expected to start before the end of the year.  And creation of additional conferencing facility at The Kingdom at Victoria Falls is expected to be completed by the third quarter of 2017,” he said.

Adventure tour operator, Wild Horizons, said it was failing to meet demand due to increased tourist’s arrivals.

“The demand for our luxury cruises is higher and most of the times we end up sub hiring other companies,” the company’s sales manager Titus Maseko said.

Wild Horizons, which specialises in outdoor adventure tours, adrenaline activities, wildlife viewing, cultural excursions and transfers, operates four luxury cruises with a total capacity of 200 passengers.
Amid the boom in occupancy, commercial sex workers are also recording brisk business from “short-time” and “pungwe” romps.

“We are getting more clients, visitors are coming and we are happy with our business,” a sex worker who only identified herself as Idah said.

Despite the boom, challenges remain.

According to Haz, Zimbabwe is 30 percent more expensive than other countries in the sub-region – a development that has seen some tourists preferring to stay in Zambia.

Some tour operators in Victoria Falls also complained about the controversial 15 percent Value Added Tax imposed on foreign tourists. Government has refused to scrap the 15 percent tax on foreign tourists’ accommodation.

Hospitality industry players also said Statutory Instrument 64 of 2016 promulgated in June last year, which bans the import of certain South African goods, including coffee creamers, camphor creams, white petroleum jellies, plastic pipes and fittings, builders’ products, baked beans, cereals, bottled water and second-hand tyres, had adversely affected the industry.

“The introduction of SI64, which we now hear was promulgated without proper consultation, is making life difficult for most hotels around here,” said a local hospitality industry player. 

“There are some products which are popular with tourists such as flavoured milk and cereals that were put on the import ban list but are not yet fully available in Zimbabwe and this has put pressures on most companies’ performance.”

Source: New airlines boost Vic Falls tourism boom (16/07/17)

Thursday 13 July 2017

Zimbabwe concerned about lack of SA tourists

Authorities in Harare are worried as tourist arrivals from South Africa decline despite a 5% increase in the overall number of African visitors to 400 000 during the 2017 first quarter period. According to a statement, South Africa is considered as a major source market for the travel and hospitality industry in Zimbabwe. This is owing to the strong trade, historical and economic ties between the two Southern African countries.
On Wednesday, the Zimbabwe Tourism Authority said that African travelers continue to account for the bulk (about 84 percent) of arrivals in Zimbabwe.
The other source markets, Asia, Oceania (accounting for one percent), America and Europe (accounting for seven percent) contributed nearly 80 000 visitors, taking the total number of arrivals in Zimbabwe for the period to 479 700. 

However, the ZTA is more worried that arrivals from South Africa are stagnating. South Africa is also a major hub for connecting international travelers to Zimbabwe. Tourist arrivals from South Africa declined by a massive 27 percent to 96 500 while visitors from Tanzania, DRC and Seychelles where 81 percent, 54 percent and 103 percent up respectively.  
“The stagnation in arrivals from South Africa, the country’s major market is of major concern as the market is Zimbabwe’s major market,” said the ZTA in its 2017 First Quarter Tourism Performance Highlights report released on Wednesday.
The ZTA further said that the declining arrivals from South Africa call for “serious consideration in addressing facilitation issues” especially at Beitbridge Border Post. 
Experts say Zimbabwe’s competitiveness as a prime destination is decreasing owing to police roadblocks, poor infrastructure such as roads and expensive US$ denominated prices.
“There is also need to seriously look at upgrading roads especially the Harare Beitbridge highway,” ZTA said in its report.
Zimbabwe Tourism Minister, Walter Mzembi last week criticized police road blocks in Zimbabwe, saying Zimbabwe was not a “conflict zone” hence the tourism industry wants to “ be policed decently so that we facilitate legitimate travel” into and out of the country.
Overall arrivals into Zimbabwe from mainland Africa registered 400 290 foreign tourist arrivals up from 380 790 in 2016. This represents a five percent increase.
Chinese arrivals into Zimbabwe have also been declining and this has led to the four percent decline in overall numbers for Asia which fell to 13 385. Arrivals from the Asian market declined by four percent from 14 004 to 13 385 in 2017. On the contrary, Asian arrivals into South Africa have been on the increase.

Chinese visitors to South Africa surged to 21 137 during the first two months of the current year. In total, Asian visitors to the continent’s most industrialised economy rose to 52 319 over the January to February 2017 period. Domestic tourism in Zimbabwe has also taken a knock owing to mounting economic woes that have precipitated cash shortages in the economy. 

Room occupancy levels for Harare, Beitbridge and Nyanga have been down by between two percent and seven percent although Vic Falls was two percent up.
“These substantial negative growths were as a result of reduced utilisation of double room occupancy by government, the corporate world and NGO’s to implement cost cutting measures purposes of viability. Declines were also a result of limited discretionary incomes in the domestic market,” said the ZTA.

Vic Falls UNWTO legacy project nears completion

A Victoria Falls World Tourism Organisation (UNWTO) legacy project to commemorate the successful hosting of the 20th General Assembly co-hosted by Zimbabwe and Zambia in 2013 will be commissioned at the end of this month.
by Nokuthaba Dlamini
Project director, Olga Mutamba said all was on course for the commissioning of the swimming pool project and refurbishments were nearing completion.
The two countries received a share of $120 000 to construct a project to mark the event, but the money has been coming in batches.
“We received our final batch of money two weeks ago and the local contractors are now working on reducing the depth of the swimming pool to safe levels,” Mutamba said.
“The changing rooms are now ready and we hope by between the 20th and 24th of this month, we will be done. The commissioning will take place just after that,” she said.
Mutamba said Tourism and Hospitality minister Walter Mzembi, UNWTO delegates and other stakeholders will attend the ceremony.
Officials hope the refurbished Chinotimba Community Pool will go a long way in promoting water sport and identification of international swimming stars.
Surrounding schools are expected to benefit from the recreational facility, while participants in the forth-coming National Youth Games, to be hosted by Matabeleland North province, are hopeful of using in preparation for the games.
Though not meeting Olympics standards, the community pool has acceptable depth for major swimming competitions.

Tourist arrivals up 6 percent for First Quarter

TOURIST arrivals for the First Quarter increased by six percent from 450 572 in 2016 to 479 718 this year, with the hotel occupancy rate up two percent to 38 percent.

This is according to the Zimbabwe Tourism Authority (ZTA)’s First Quarter Tourism Performance Highlights released this week.

The authority attributed the increase to the five percent rise in arrivals from mainland Africa.
Mainland Africa, which has the bulk of arrivals into the country at 84 percent, recorded a five percent increase, accounting for 400 290 tourists against 380 790 in 2016 although arrivals from neighboring South Africa remained stagnant.

ZTA said this was of great concern considering that South Africa was Zimbabwe’s major market.
“This calls for serious consideration in addressing facilitation issues especially at Beitbridge. There is also need to seriously look at upgrading roads especially the Harare Beitbridge highway,” it said
Arrivals from Europe, which had declined by 18 percent in 2016, rose this year by 25 percent with 35 381 visitors compared to last year’s 27 433, with France, at 76 percent, contributing the bulk of the visitors followed by UK with 13 percent and Germany on eight percent.

“The increase in European arrivals is a positive development considering the fact that this region closed with an 18% decline in 2016. The European market share stood at 7% and is second only to Africa, thus Europe, remains as the greatest overseas market for the country.

While the arrivals from Europe increased, the country still has a long way to go in terms of attracting arrivals from this market, this is especially so as the country’s neighbour South Africa recorded 102 155 arrivals from UK alone in the first two months of 2017,” ZTA said.

Tourists from the Americas increased by three percent from 22 620 last year to 23 297 this quarter although the figures are way below those arriving in neighboring South Africa.

“It should be important to note that while Zimbabwe received 23 297 arrivals, neighboring South Africa received 78 548 in the first 2 months alone,” the ZTA noted.

Despite being the least contributor to tourist arrivals into the country at just one percent, the Midlands recorded a significant increase of 41 percent buoyed by a 48 percent increase in arrivals from Israel.
Asia was the only market to record a decline, with arrivals weakening by four percent from 14 004 to 13 385.

“The decline mainly came as a result of the poor performance of China (43%) in the first three months of the year. On the contrary, Asian arrivals into South Africa are on the increase based on the available figures for January and February 2017. South Africa has already received over 52 319 Asian arrivals and over 21 137 Chinese arrivals in the first two months,” the ZTA said.

The average national hotel room occupancy rate stood at 38 percent this year from last year’s 36 percent, with Harare having the highest average occupancy of 54 percent despite declining by two p
ZTA attributed the negative growth to the reduced number of foreign tourists utilizing accommodation facilities.

Masvingo, with an occupancy rate of 49 percent had the second highest in the country, followed by Bulawayo with 44 percent and Victoria Falls 37 percent.

Source: Tourist arrivals up 6 percent for First Quarter (12/07/17)

Wednesday 12 July 2017

RTG completes 46 rooms refurbishment in Vic Falls

Leonard Ncube in Victoria Falls

RAINBOW Tourism Group (RTG) has completed refurbishing half of the rooms at Rainbow Hotel in Victoria Falls, as the hotelier responds to rising demand for more and quality accommodation facilities in the prime resort town.

After commissioning of the Victoria Falls International Airport and coming in of more wide bodied aeroplanes, projections are arrivals will increase by 80 000 per year.

There are also concerns about rooms’ deficit hence the need for upgrading and development of new hotels facilities.

Rainbow Victoria Falls has 88 rooms, 46 of which have had a complete overhaul at a cost of $500 000.

The group set aside about $1 million to upgrade the facility and the remaining 42 rooms will be refurbished in the last quarter of the year after peak season.

Speaking during a media tour of Rainbow Hotel Victoria Falls and A’Zambezi River Lodge over the weekend, the group corporate communications and innovations manager, Mrs Pride Khumbula, said about 90 percent of the group’s clients were foreign hence the need to meet international standards in terms of service.

She said the developments were necessitated by increasing demand for quality accommodation in the prime resort town and the need by the hotelier to complement standards.

“The upgrading is meant to entice more arrivals and we want to applaud the Government for recent refurbishment of the airport, which is now bringing more numbers. Forty-six rooms are complete and $500 000 was spent,” she said.

The media tour was aimed at giving journalists an appreciation of developments that the group, which also runs A’Zambezi River Lodge is doing.

A’Zambezi River Lodge was also upgraded a few years ago. The new look 46 rooms at Rainbow Hotel now bears new beds, newly painted walls, air conditioning, furniture and floor tiles while there is also a new development in the form of a beauty spa.

The hotel’s general manager, Mr Chris Svovah, said the refurbishment started in November last year.
“We started in November and stopped in May because we are now in peak season. We will resume in November again to finish the remaining 42 rooms, which also cost almost half a million dollars,” he said.

Meanwhile, Mr Svovah, who is also Hospitality Association of Zimbabwe (HAZ) chair for the Victoria Falls chapter said the industry was excited by the new lease of life, with hotels and lodges currently 60 percent full.

“As an industry we are excited and numbers speak for themselves. We want to applaud the Government for its open skies policy which has increased connectivity and arrivals. To us this translates to increased occupancies and we are targeting 70 percent by year end.

“So far many are fully booked and overally we are at 60-65 percent capacity and we see nothing stopping us reaching 70 percent.

“What we are doing is engage players to improve their products and also increase capacity so we match demand,” he said.

Source: RTG completes 46 rooms refurbishment in Vic Falls (11/07/17)

Tuesday 11 July 2017

Victoria Falls seeks city status

THE Victoria Falls Municipality has applied for city status, arguing that its rapid expansion qualified it for an upgrade in its status.

This was revealed by Victoria Falls mayor Sifiso Mpofu during the commissioning of stands developed by CBZ Bank on Thursday last week.

Mpofu said they were waiting for the government's response to their application.

"As you may be aware, the Victoria Falls Municipality is gunning for city status and this desire is premised on the town's rapid growth as evidenced by such projects as this one," he said.

"I have no doubt that, as a town, we have your full support in this endeavour."

In response, Local Government deputy minister Christopher Chingosho applauded the local authority for its desire to expand the resort town.

"We welcome your application as a ministry and we will look into that. We only have six cities in the whole country, that is Harare, Bulawayo, Gweru, Kwekwe, Masvingo and Mutare. Victoria Falls will be our seventh and that will be a great achievement," he said.

Mpofu further expressed gratitude to CBZ Bank for the quality service they delivered and assured residents that all the stands were for local people.

"The works done in this scheme have set a new standard for the quality of services to be offered by the Municipality of Victoria Falls in the future," he said.

"I want to assure the people of Victoria Falls that all the stands under the scheme are for locals and that no outsiders will be given any preferential treatment and for the avoidance of doubt, at the end of the allocation process, a detailed report will be compiled to ascertain transparency of the whole process."

This came after the housing scheme had been in limbo, as close to 500 home seekers in the resort town were at logger heads with the local authority over land, which they invaded to stop the bank from allocating the beneficiaries, arguing that it had been sold non-residents, among other alleged unsatisfactory processes.

Chingosho commissioned 1 353 high-density and low-density houses and the allocations are still going on.

The bank has since invited willing beneficiaries to apply for mortgage loans from them.

Source: Victoria Falls seeks city status (10/07/17)

Explorers Village expands to 40 rooms

Safari and adventure company Shearwater has expanded its Explorers Village in the Victoria Falls resort to 40 rooms.

Staff Writer/victoriafalls24.

The new small hotel had just opened with an initial 16 rooms. Since then, arrivals have been on the increase, according to reliable hotel operators on the Zimbabwe side of the Victoria Falls.

The ground-handling and destination management operator expects occupancy rate in 2017 to be record breaking, month-on-month, when compared to anything in the last 20 years. The top three properties have not dipped below 60% occupancy since January. The affordability of the product has been the major reason for its performance.

The rooms are all on one side of the complex in neat rows of bungalows and the public areas include a very comfortable bar area, restaurant and beautiful pool area.

Located merely 400m from the Vic Falls, 100m from the epicentre of the Vic Falls town with its craft and curio markets, bohemian cafes and overlooking natural African bush panorama, the Explorers Village is the perfect “base camp”, comprising of five bespoke overland camping sites, modern ablution facilities and 16 private chalets. The village represents budget accommodation where guests can enjoy an excellent environment, traditional food, ice-cold drinks and friendly hosts ready to welcome you and guide you through your Vic Falls experience.

Source: Explorers Village expands to 40 rooms (10/07/17)

Friday 7 July 2017

Victoria Falls commissions housing stands

Leonard Ncube, Victoria Falls Reporter

MORE than 1 300 housing stands were commissioned in Victoria Falls yesterday, paving the way for their allocation to beneficiaries.

Last year Victoria Falls municipality entered into a $12 million partnership with CBZ bank to service the housing stands targeting low income earners.

Local Government, Public Works and National Housing Deputy Minister, Christopher Chingosho, commissioned the 1 353 low density and medium density housing.

One stand was handed over to a beneficiary Mr Reason Nyoni, with more allocations expected to start today.

CBZ Holdings chief executive officer Mr Never Nyemudzo said all the stands had been sold out as he invited beneficiaries to start applying for mortgage loans from the bank. Victoria Falls Mayor Councillor Sifiso Mpofu said the completion of the project is a milestone.

The housing scheme has been hanging in the balance as more than 400 home seekers in the resort town were at loggerheads with the municipality over a piece of land, which they invaded to stop the bank from allocating beneficiaries.

However, Local Government, Public Works and National Housing Minister Saviour Kasukuwere who was in Victoria Falls for the 36th Shelter Afrique annual general meeting on Wednesday said none of the concerned beneficiaries would lose their stands. Shelter Afrique, an organisation that deals with financing of housing projects in the continent, is in partnership with the bank in funding the project. — @ncubeleon.

Source: Victoria Falls commissions housing stands (7/7/17)