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Monday 30 July 2018

Vic Falls’ $1.2 bn project takes shape

Vice President Retired General Dr Constantino Chiwenga has presided over the ground breaking ceremony of $1.2 billion worth of investment projects in Victoria Falls which are set to transform the resort destination as a competitive international tourist’s destination and spur earnings as well as tourists traffic.

The four-pronged investment to be implemented by Dubai headquartered firm, Feonirichi will see the construction of a grand prix circuit, a convention centre, a shopping mall and a state-of-the-art medical resort.

The investment, which has been accorded the national project status and is set to be afforded special tax incentives, marks the pioneering projects for the Victoria Falls special economic zone.

The project was mooted during the 2018 Arabian Travel Market and three months down the line, a ground breaking ceremony has been held to mark the commencement of the initiative.

Vice President Chiwenga said the mega project is set to position the resort town, which is currently enjoying record numbers as an attractive destination, ensures product diversification and unlocks the full potential of the tourism sector.

Feonirichi Group CEO, Mr Prince Adebayo said the firm is privileged to be afforded a chance to contribute to the growth of the local tourism industry and announced that the hospital will offer free services for expecting mothers and children below the age of 13.

The Minister of Tourism and Hospitality Industry, Prisca Mupfumira and the Minister of State for Matabeleland North Provincial Affairs, Ambassador Cain Mathema said the investment is a result of the Zimbabwe is open for business drive and expressed confidence that it will set the tone for more investments into the special economic zone.

All the projects are expected to commence soon after the finalisation of the environmental impact assessment.

The convention centre is expected to ensure that the country bids for major international events while the grand prix circuit is set result in hosting of major motor racing events.

The ground breaking ceremony was graced by government officials, captains of industry, Zimbabwe Tourism Authority (ZTA) officials, the tourism industry, traditional leaders and Victoria Falls residents.

Source:  Vic Falls’ $1.2 bn project takes shape (29/07/18)

Tuesday 24 July 2018

Zim tourism 'enjoying a rebound... tourists returning to majestic Victoria Falls'

After nearly two decades in the doldrums, Zimbabwe's tourism sector is enjoying a rebound, with visitors returning in droves to see the majestic Victoria Falls and explore unspoilt safari reserves.
The number of foreign visitors to Victoria Falls, the southern African country's flagship destination, jumped nearly 50% in the first quarter of this year compared with the same period in 2017, the tourism minister says.
Countrywide, arrivals rose by 15% to 554 417, according to treasury statistics.
Political and economic turmoil under longtime autocratic ruler Robert Mugabe had wrecked the sector, but authorities and tourism operators now believe the industry has a new lease of life.
Mugabe was ousted in November after a 37-year repressive rule during which tourists shunned the country, fearful of police demanding bribes, crumbling infrastructure and scarce fuel.
Cash was also in short supply from 2009, when hyperinflation forced Zimbabwe to abandon its own currency in favour of the US dollar.
"We were in a closed period for a long time," admitted Tourism Minister Priscah Mupfumira, speaking ahead of key elections on July 30. "We closed ourselves in, doors were locked."
Since Emmerson Mnangagwa took over as president from Mugabe in a de facto coup last year, "we are poised for growth", the minister told AFP.
"There are good vibes from the industry and from the international world - everybody is so positive," she said.
With Zimbabwe's economy still in tatters, an influx of tourists is expected to help bring in desperately needed revenue, with the sector already contributing around 10% to GDP.
"It's a key pillar to our economy and a low-hanging fruit - we just have to get our act together," Mupfumira said.
But visiting Zimbabwe is generally more expensive compared with neighbouring countries.
Good feeling
"It is not a cheap holiday," said Ilan Wiesenbacher, a restaurateur in Victoria Falls, where the Zambezi River plunges over a gorge and raises a mist that can be seen more than 20km away.
"We have seen a steady rise in numbers," said Wiesenbacher, manager at the Three Monkeys restaurant. "There is a general good feeling around Zimbabwe and tourism."
Even in the traditional low season from January to March, craft beer brewer Jake Le Breton had more glasses to fill at his River Brewing Company bar in Victoria Falls.
"We have just come out of a quiet season... (but) it was a busy time with a higher number of tourists than we have seen in previous years," said Le Breton, adding that local hotels have been fully booked.
"The general sense in this country, especially from a tourist, is one of anticipation, one of excitement."
Lloyd Machaka, who operates Chikopokopo Flights helicopter tours over the Victoria Falls, has also seen more visitors from Malawi and the southern African region.
"Hopefully we will have more investors coming in to build more hotels, bigger hotels. We want more airlines coming here," said Machaka, standing by one of his helicopters.
'I feel very safe'
Kenya Airways and Ethiopian Airlines now fly direct to Victoria Falls's smart new airport.
"I feel very safe, the people are welcoming. Getting the visa was really easy," said Canadian tourist Katelyn Pretzlaff.
French tourist Patrice Lehmann, who was visiting the Victoria Falls for the third time, said: "It's one of the most impressive things I have seen in my life."
Zimbabwe has also removed the notorious police roadblocks that had become a constant annoyance for motorists. Typically, drivers reluctantly paid bribes to evade long questioning over minor alleged offences.
"The issue of roadblocks - it was a disaster, a real problem," the minister admitted.
Authorities have launched an aggressive drive to "reassure the world that Zimbabwe is open for business, Zimbabwe is a safe, peaceful tourist destination," Mupfumira said.
Alongside "Vic Falls", the country's highlights include Lake Kariba, the vast game-filled national parks of Hwange and Mana Pools and the Eastern Highlands mountains.
Mnangagwa, a former ally of Mugabe, has vowed to hold a clean election next week as proof of the country's fresh start, but many critics say the same Zanu-PF party chiefs still call the shots.
Mnangagwa is the favourite to win, but any dispute or violence over a close result could spell a return to instability.

Friday 20 July 2018

New look Victoria Falls airport attracts more airlines

VICTORIA Falls International Airport is overwhelmed by visitors, a development that has seen some airlines either increasing frequency or introducing bigger planes to meet demand.

The new look facility was commissioned two years ago following a $150 million refurbishment and now has capacity to handle wide bodied aircraft and 1,5 million passengers annually.

Airlines that use Victoria Falls Airport include Air Zimbabwe, Air Namibia, British Airways, Fastjet, Ethiopian Airways, Kenyan Airways, South African Airways and SA Airlink.

Inquiries by The Chronicle established that Ethiopian Airways and South African Airlink have been occasionally bringing bigger aircraft due to an increase in demand.

Airlink, which uses the 37-seater Embraer EJ135 plane, has on three occasions this month flown an 83-seater plane on its Cape Town-Victoria Falls route due to demand.

The Ethiopian Airways brought the new Boeing 737 series last week to relieve the Boeing 787 Dreamliner due to demand.

The two airlines started flying into Victoria Falls last year and have been consistent in their schedules.

Airlink flies six days a week except for Saturday connecting the two tourist destinations of Victoria Falls and Cape Town.

Ethiopian Airlines flies four times a week between Addis Ababa-Victoria Falls-Gaborone-Addis Ababa on Sundays, Tuesdays, Thursdays and Saturdays.

Sources from both airlines, who preferred to remain anonymous because they are not authorised to speak to the media, said the bigger planes will be occasionally coming based on demand.

Air Namibia and Fastjet have also increased frequency into Victoria Falls.

Air Namibia, which used to fly three days, now flies five days a week on Sunday, Monday, Wednesday, Friday and Saturday while Fastjet now flies twice daily between Harare and Victoria Falls for six days except for Saturday.

The airliner also flies between Victoria Falls and Johannesburg on Thursday and Sunday.

Victoria Falls Airport manager, Mr Ronnie Masawi, yesterday said the facility was overwhelmed with numbers as more people continue to trickle in.

He said the current hype is expected to prevail until the end of the year.

"We are right in the middle of the peak season in Victoria Falls and airlines are reporting a higher number of passengers that they are bringing to Victoria Falls and flying out on a daily basis.

"We expect this to continue up to the end of November," said Mr Masawi.

The Zimbabwe Council for Tourism early this year said the airport's capacity utilisation had risen from 21 to 26 percent while tourism players recorded a 20 percent boom in business owing to consistency by airlines in servicing the route.

Predictions by one of Zimbabwe's largest leisure groups Africa Albida Tourism last year showed that renewed interest by airlines to the new look facility would attract an additional 80 000 visitors annually.

Source: New look Victoria Falls airport attracts more airlines (19/07/18)

Wednesday 18 July 2018

Meikles to Expand Victoria Falls Hotel

Hospitality group, Meikles Limited, intends to expand its Victoria Falls Hotel in the resort town as it positions itself to capitalise on the anticipated boon in the tourism sector driven by the expected economic growth.
The group is also embarking on massive refurbishment of the hotel and its other properties across the country.
This comes as both the Victoria Falls Hotel and Meikles Hotel have enjoyed growth in occupancy during the first few months of the new financial year.
"A refurbishment programme for the Victoria Falls Hotel will commence before the end of 2018. However, of greater significance is a project to enlarge the hotel with additional accommodation which is currently in the initial stages of planning and implementation which need to be expedited," said executive chairman John Moxon in a statement accompanying the group's financial results for the year to March 30, 2018.
Zimbabwe's tourism sector is on a major rebound buoyed by a change in Government policy that has helped to market the country as safe investment destination. This has resulted in many tourists also visiting the country as buttressed by hotels that have recorded bookings until the end of the year.
The group, however, closed its Mega Market and 'M' stores, partly in the later months of the year and partly in the early months of the current financial year. At an EBITDA loss of $4,2 million, the segment was badly affected throughout the year by the absence of funds to the group from Government, a position which was still prevalent in the early months of the current financial year.
Source: Meikles to Expand Victoria Falls Hotel (17/07/18)

Thursday 12 July 2018

Captive Victoria Falls elephant used in tourism tramples handler to death

Leonard Ncube, Victoria Falls Reporter

A 40-YEAR-OLD man who was employed as an elephant handler by a tour operator in Victoria Falls was trampled to death by an elephant on Saturday while rounding up a herd for penning.

Mr Jorum Ndlovu of 1043 Chinotimba suburb died on the spot following the attack.

His workmates Messrs Misheck Ncube and Nyasha Phiri tried to scare the jumbo away by throwing stones at it but their efforts were in vain, police confirmed. Rangers from the Zimbabwe Parks and Wildlife Management Authority shot dead the elephant.

Police officer commanding Victoria Falls District, Chief Superintendent Tadeus Madondo said a young bull elephant charged at Mr Ndlovu and trampled him to death.

“I can confirm that an elephant handler employed by Wild Horizons was trampled to death by one of the elephants. On July 7 at 8AM, Jorum Ndlovu, in the company of Misheck Ncube (42) and Nyasha Phiri (23) who both reside at Wild Horizon Camp drove seven domesticated elephants from the pens to the grazing area in the Wild Horizon sanctuary,” said Chief Supt Madondo.

“At around 11AM the three were ordered to drive back the elephants to the stables as there were some tourists who wanted to do a ride. As they are were driving them, two young elephants started fighting and other female elephants joined in.”

Chief Supt Madondo said the two young bulls fled in different directions as the bigger elephants charged at them.In the process, one of the elephants charged towards Mr Ndlovu who took to his heels.

“The elephant charged in the same direction of the handler who fled and it pursued and trampled on him. His two colleagues threw stones at the elephant to scare it away and by the time they got to where he was lying he was already dead,” said Chief Supt Madondo.—@ncubeleon

Source: Domesticated  Victoria Falls elephant tramples handler to death (10/07/18)
More: Victoria Falls Elephant Handler Trampled to Death By Jumbo (10/07/18)

More (external links):
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):
'Domesticated' elephant shot after trampling handler, Victoria Falls (03/02/18)
Captive elephant used in tourist elephant-back safaris kills handler (Livingstone, Zambia) (02/04/13)
Elephant-back Safaris “Simply Accidents Waiting to Happen” Warns Top Tourism Insurer (10/05/17)
Captive Elephant Used In Tourism Safaris Kills Handler In Victoria Falls (19/12/08)

Wednesday 11 July 2018

RTG completes Victoria Falls Rainbow Refurbishment

Listed Rainbow Tourism Group (RTG) has completed refurbishment of the Victoria Falls Rainbow Hotel in line with global standards and growing demand for quality accommodation.

Upgrading of the 88-room facility started last year when 46 rooms on the Mosi-wing were given a facelift while the remaining 42 in the Oa-Tunya wing were completed end of April this year after the hotelier set aside $1 million for the project.

Demand for quality accommodation by the source markets has seen RTG upgrading most of its facilities countrywide to meet standards.
Some of the changes at the hotel include an overhaul of floor tiles, repainting of walls with new artistic taste, beds, furniture, curtains, lighting, showers, toilet system as well as a new spa among other developments.
The new-look rooms also have a fusion of international and Afrocentric touch, with international standard sockets and USB cables meant to ensure that no client finds his or her gadgets redundant while booked there.
Staff members now wear “Afro centric” uniform while the picture frames hanging on the walls cater for both local and international taste.
Speaking during a media tour of Victoria Falls Rainbow Hotel on Monday, general manager Mr Chris Svovah said the renovations are in line with the group’s taste of freshness and desire to satisfy all clients.
“One of our values as RTG is freshness hence we have invested $1 million to address a lot of issues. We are not ending there, we want to offer total hospitality and we are also going to re-do the restaurant and conference room as we want to be conference venue of choice and the concept is already there,” he said.
Mr Svovah said they will also renovate the Panorama Deck on the hotel’s rooftop, which gives an aerial view of the Zambezi River and Victoria Falls Rainforest as well as a view of Livingstone town across the river.
He said only two months after the renovations, occupancy had risen by 10 percent compared to the same period last year as the market responds.
“Our occupancy was depressed in the first four months of the year because we had closed the section for renovations. But comparing with June 2017 when we had 61 percent, June 2018 we had 70 percent due to the impact of renovations,” he said.
Mr Svovah said the hotel’s market was classified as 85 percent international and 15 percent domestic. He said to promote domestic tourism, the hotel had introduced a winter promotion as well as special packages for schools who also make up a bigger chuck of local tourists.
Meanwhile, the hotel donated part of its old equipment to Ndlovu Secondary School as part of its corporate social responsibility and appreciation of support the school have given to the hotel.
The items included eight toilet units, five basins, three bathroom mirrors and five air conditioners, which were received by the school head Mr Memory Ncube and SDC chair, Mr Alfred Ndlovu.
RTG corporate communications and innovations manager, Mrs Pride Khumbula, said the donated items were worth over $2 000. The hotel will also assist with installation of the items for the school.
A similar gesture was made by the group’s other facility-Kadoma Hotel and Conference Centre, which recently donated linen valued at $7 500 to Tariro Children’s home, Rimuka Old People’s Home and Association, Kadoma General Hospital and ZRP.
Mrs Khumbula said refurbishment work was underway at the Kadoma Hotel with more than 90 rooms already done. — The Chronicle

Tuesday 10 July 2018

$300m power project for Vic Falls

A VICTORIA Falls consultancy firm says it has raised $300 million to set up a solar and hydro-energy plant along the Zambezi River.
The plant, according to projections, is expected to produce 125 megawatts of electricity. Some of the energy produced will be fed into the national power grid.
Tendai Tidings Musasa, the Southpole Stalwardbuilt Zimbabwe in-country director told NewsDay Weekender.
“We have pooled funding to the tune of $300 million for the project. This will be used for the construction of the solar plant, training of personnel who will use the equipment that we have procured for the plant, as well as administration of the project,” he said.
“We have acquired new technology for this project. We will also be using hydro turbines which will be installed in the Zambezi for the generation of energy. Part of the power that will be generated from this project will be pumped to our data centre while the other part will be put up in the grid for the town of Victoria Falls,” he added.
Documents shown to NewsDay Weekender indicate that the project was approved by the Zimbabwe Investment Authority (ZIA) with its budget being factored into the ZIA foreign direct investment account.
ZIA chief executive officer, Richard Mbaiwa in a letter to Musasa confirming the approval of the project, said the authority expects it to commence this month.
“I am pleased to advise that the Zimbabwe Investment Authority has approved your application for an investment licence to engage in integrated renewable energy, ICT, rail, and road infrastructure development project in Victoria Falls.
“The authority expects you to commence implementation of the project within six months from the date of approval,” he said in a letter addressed to Musasa.
According to documents at hand, the project will be implemented in partnership with Stalwart Green Global International, an American institution.
A local bank, Stanbic Bank, has also come on board as the guarantor of the project. “We are at the stage where we are discussing the financial closure of the deal. It is not an easy stage, but I am happy to note that we have covered more ground. We are looking forward to commencing the project once these small knots have been tied,” Musasa said.