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Thursday 22 November 2018

Victoria Falls Hotel average revenue per room grows

THE Zimbabwe Stock Exchange-listed conglomerate, Meikles Limited’s profit after tax for the half-year ended September 30, 2018 grew by 467 percent to $15,3 million from $2,7 million realised last year.
The group’s revenue for the period under review grew by 30 percent to $330,8 million from $254 million in the comparable period.
In its unaudited financial statement for the period under review, the group also said profit after tax had surpassed the result of the full financial year ended March 31, 2018 of $7,7 million by 99 percent.
Group chairman, Mr John Moxon, said in a statement accompanying the financial results: “Earnings before interest, tax, depreciation and amortisation for the period rose by 107 percent to $31,5 million from the previous year’s result of $15,2 million.
“Progress is being made in raising long-term finance. On completion, short-term loans and overdue current liabilities will be paid off.”
Meikles Limited owns TM Supermarkets trading as TM Pick n Pay, Tanganda, Meikles Hotel, Victoria Falls Hotel and Meikles Stores. During the period TM Pick n Pay supermarkets realised revenue amounting to $305,6 million reflecting a growth of 32 percent from $232 million in the previous year.
The rise in revenue was underpinned by a considerable growth in the number of units sold. The supermarket division’s profit after tax improved to $13,9 million from $6,7 million the previous year.
“Refurbishment works are in progress at five branches with completion expected before the commencement of the festive season,” Mr Moxon said.
On Tanganda, he said the division’s revenue went up by 22 percent to $15,7 million from $12,9 million achieved during the six months ended September 30, 2017. On the hospitality side, he said revenues grew by 18 percent to $10,3 million from $8,7 million achieved during the same period last year.
“At Meikles, revenues per average room rose by 35 percent underpinned by growth of both room occupancy and average room rate.
“The Victoria Falls Hotel revenue per average room grew to $198 from $188 achieved the previous,” he said.
Mr Moxon said Meikles Stores closed its mega market operations during the period under review due to working capital constraints as a result the division suffered a loss of $1,2 million compared to a loss of $1,8 million in the previous year.
“Funding arrangements for working capital requirements are being secured and new store models are being developed,” he said.

Wednesday 21 November 2018

Victoria Falls, Livingstone youths in clean-up campaign

Leonard Ncube/Rosalla Mzacana, Victoria Falls Reporters
A GROUP of volunteer youths from Victoria Falls and their counterparts from Livingstone in Zambia embarked on a clean-up of the Victoria Falls Rainforest and Bridge in an effort to keep the resort destination in its pristine state.
The two countries share the Victoria Falls and bridge, both tourist attractions, with the now popular imagery that Zimbabwe is the front and Zambia the back of the beautiful Mighty Victoria Falls.
However, human activity in and around the area has led to significant pollution, which has even seen the Rainforest being invaded by the water hyacinth plant while visitors also throw litter around.
Green Line Africa working with the Zimbabwe Youth Environment Network of Victoria Falls and Zambia Youth Network organised the clean-up with 21 youths taking part last week.
Zimbabwe Youth Environment Network chairperson Mr Taffy Phiri said the exercise was part of the Global Action Month activities to inculcate a culture of cleanliness among youths and communities.
“Our aim here is to make sure we educate young people about the importance of safeguarding their environment and encouraging them to be involved and take action.
“Don’t treat the earth as if it was left to you by your ancestors but treat it as if it was lent to you by your children,” said Mr Phiri.
“As much as the Rainforest is the responsibility of the Zimbabwe National Parks and Wildlife Management Authority, it is also our mandate as the youths to ensure that we assist in preserving the heritage site.”
His counterpart from Zambia Youth Network assistant field officer Miss Vanessa Chibale said the coming together of the youths was a way for them to learn from each other.
“We are here to engage one another to exchange notes in terms of taking care of the environment,” she said.
The Global Action Month runs under the theme “Promoting Children’s Environmental Rights: Act Now” and is dedicated to the engagement of young people to be active in taking care and preserving their environment. Terre Des Hommes of Germany is funding the programme.

Tuesday 20 November 2018

New book on the history of the Victoria Falls

Life and Death at the Old Drift, Victoria Falls, 1898-1905, by Peter Roberts

The Old Drift holds a unique place within the story of the modern development of the region, established in 1898 and marking the main crossing point on the Zambezi River above the Victoria Falls for European travellers and traders heading north into the Kingdom of Barotseland (Western Zambia). Below the Falls the river, trapped within the deep gorges, presents a natural barrier to travellers for hundreds of kilometres.

A small settlement of evolved on the north bank and from 1898 to 1905 the crossing was a focal point in the transport of goods and people across the river, despite earning notoriety for the high mortality rate, with many settlers dying of malarial complications known as blackwater fever.

The arrival of the railway from the southern Cape to the banks of the Zambezi in mid-1904, and the construction of the Victoria Falls Bridge - crossing the river just below the great waterfall and opened in 1905 - shifted the axis of activity away from the Old Drift, and the ramshackle gathering of huts was abandoned to the bush in favour of the new town of Livingstone. After only a short number of years the days of the Drift were over, leaving only the graves of those who died and the memories of those lucky enough to have survived. Close by a stone cairn, erected by the Zambian National Monuments Commission in 1952, marks where the ferry pontoons arrived and the wagons once came ashore.

'Life and Death at the Old Drift' presents a detailed history of this brief but pivotal period in the recent human history of the Falls. Quoting extensively from contemporary references and sources, the story follows the growth of this small European community and some of the colourful characters drawn to life on the banks of the Zambezi - despite the risks.

Fully illustrated with over 90 archive images and photographs. [60,000 words, 189 pages]

First published in March 2018, copies of 'Life and Death at the Old Drift, Victoria Falls (1898-1905)' are available to order online through either (US site) or (UK site) for payment in US Dollars or UK Pounds.

Friday 16 November 2018

Africa’s Victoria Falls: the good, bad and ugly sides to tourism at the world’s largest water curtain

An adrenaline junkie’s dream destination, the wildly impressive waterfall is not without faults, gatecrashing crocodiles and badly behaved baboons among them

Tim Pile  (15 Nov, 2018)

The Good

One of the most spectacular sights in Africa, Victoria Falls is a mile-long marvel of mist and spray marking the border between Zambia and Zimbabwe. Known to locals as Mosi-oa-Tunya, “the smoke that thunders”, the roar from the world’s largest single curtain of falling water can be heard 40km away.

The falls were named after Britain’s Queen Victoria by David Livingstone, the first European known to have crossed the Dark Continent. On coming face to face with the waterfall in 1855, the explorer and missionary incredu­lously recorded, “It has never been seen before by European eyes, but scenes so wonderful must have been gazed upon by angels in their flight.”

Chief Sekeletu, of the local Makololo tribe, paddled the adventurous Scotsman to Goat Island, now Livingstone Island, which is as close to the dramatic cataract as you can get. Well, almost. Today’s tourists take the same route until they, too, are surrounded by the tossing, tumbling Zambezi River. Water levels are at their lowest from late August to early January and this is when fearless (or foolish) foreigners dive in and swim to Devil’s Pool. A submerged ledge enables show-offs to lie on the lip of the falls, barely a metre from the raging rapids, without being swept over.

The ultimate infinity pool is reached from the Zambian border town of – you guessed it – Livingstone. The easy-going former capital is a popular base for visitors wary of the political, economic and social unrest just across the river.

Zimbabwe may be about to bounce back from its tourism slump, however. Lonely Planet has included the nation once known as Rhodesia in its top 10 of countries to visit in 2019, Victoria Falls (also the name of the town) hotel occupancy rates are at their highest for 20 years and 300,000 people are expected this year – a far cry from 2008, when visitor numbers dwindled to 25,000.
Tourism chiefs on both sides of the river realise the destination they share has what it takes to become a lucrative year-round attraction (the waterfall draws even bigger crowds during the rainy season). Victoria Falls might be twice as high as Niagara, in North America, but it’s a lot less commercialised, although that’s changing.

Helicopter flights and hot-air-balloon rides offer birds-eye views, and adrenaline junkies go white-water rafting down the mighty Zambezi or zip-line over it. They can also follow in the footsteps of Hollywood actor Will Smith, who gave the local tourism industry a boost last year when he bungee jumped off the 111-metre bridge that links Zim and Zam.

On the subject of adrenaline sports, (Zimbabwean) ground was recently broken on a Grand Prix circuit for Victoria Falls, bankrolled by a Dubai-based consortium. Besides the racetrack, there are plans for convention facilities, a medical centre and shopping mall.
Further afield, both countries offer world-class game viewing. Safari goers have an excellent chance of spotting the Big Five in Hwange National Park, Zimbabwe, which is home to one of Africa’s largest elephant populations. In ZambiaSouth Luangwa National Park
 is renowned for its walking safaris. Frankly, I’d rather sit on the ledge at Devil’s Pool.

The Bad

It’s 12 months this week since Zimbabwe president Robert Mugabe was ousted in a coup. After years of corruption, financial mismanagement and plummeting exports, tourism is the only bright spot in a beleaguered economy, which helps explain the ambitious Grand Prix project.

Local hoteliers suspect the plans are nothing more than a publicity stunt but if construction does go ahead, the environmental impact at the Unesco World Heritage Site is likely to be devastating.

Meanwhile, empty ATMs and queues for petrol and food mean panic buying and hoarding are part of everyday life for Zimbabweans and, despite the introduction of a multiple-currency system, American dollars are scarce. In fact, the strength of the greenback (if you can get hold of any) has made Zimbabwe the most expensive country in the region – another reason tourists are basing themselves on the Zambian side of the falls. Inflation and a ballooning national debt have also resulted in a chronic shortage of medicines. Try not to fall ill in Zimbabwe.

Failed state it might be, but Zim is famous for its incre­dibly friendly people. Times are tough, though, and street vendors have had to become persistent to survive. Even those employed in an official capacity, such as tour guides and shopkeepers, occasionally indulge in price gouging scams. You may not realise you’re being fleeced, or, in some cases, robbed. In a four-month period last year, 100 Victoria Falls hotel guests had money and other items stolen from their rooms.

Safety and security risks aren’t restricted to light-fingered humans, however. This is Africa and wild animals present an altogether different kind of threat. In August, a crocodile was captured on Victoria Falls Bridge, not far from where Will Smith bungee jumped. Then, in September, a German tourist in Victoria Falls, the town, was attacked and trampled on by an irate elephant. He survived after hawkers threw stones at the beast to distract it.

Another tragic Victoria Falls pachy­derm tale that appeared in African newspapers last year had an air of fake news about it. The headline: “Motorist dies when elephant falls on his car” sounds surreal enough, but read on and you discover the 44-year-old victim was called John Banana.

Hippos are responsible for more human fatalities than any other large animal in Africa and boating out to Livingstone Island is arguably riskier than sitting in the Devil’s Pool. Capsizing incidents are not unheard of in these parts. In 1910, a Mr Orchard and a Mrs Moss were swept into the misty abyss after an inquisitive hippo upended their canoes at the top of the falls. Their bodies were later found to have been mutilated by crocodiles.

The Ugly

With long, razor-sharp canines, baboons are perhaps the most menacing animals that tourists are likely to encounter. From pulling power cables loose, which left 50,000 residents in Livingstone without electricity last year, to ambushing shoppers as they carry groceries home, the opportunistic primates are at best a nuisance, at worse unpredictable and aggressive. In April, a baboon mauled a one-year-old baby in Victoria Falls, Zimbabwe, causing life-threatening injuries.

To add insult to injury, mother and daughter had to cross into Zambia for emergency treatment due to a lack of medication on their side of the border.

Getting there 

Ethiopian flies from Hong Kong to Victoria Falls airport, in Zimbabwe, via Addis Ababa. South African connects Hong Kong to Livingstone airport, in Zambia, via Johannesburg.

Saturday 10 November 2018

Vic Falls gets new US$800-a-night hotel

The list of luxury boutique hotels in Victoria Falls continues to grow with another addition scheduled to open its doors in the prime resort in May next year.

Mbano Manor Hotel will bring a unique experience to global, high-end tourists visiting the resort’s pristine surrounds, which include the major drawcard, the world-famous Victoria Falls waterfall, and Zambezi National Park.

The 19 all-suite luxury boutique hotel will be situated between the Zambezi National Park and the majestic Victoria Falls, in the middle of an ancient, natural teak forest. The foreseen rate will be from US$800 per person per night sharing, for full board, including accommodation, meals, beverage and transfers.

Zimbabwe-born businesswoman Mati Nyazema, the driving force behind the hotel, is ecstatic and says her project is “the ideal product for a renewed travel experience” in the country, especially for discerning clients visiting Southern and East Africa.

However, the new arrival would have to fight it out for the evidently resurgent market share in an environment where others have already marked their territory in black and white. There are other luxury hotels in the Victoria Falls who have made their names on the global stage of travel such as on ratings agencies like TripAdvisor and fivestaralliance, among others.

The market is defined by names such as the Victoria Falls Safari Lodge, Stanley & Livingstone Hotel, Matetsi Victoria Falls, the Elephant Camp or even the intimate “grand old lady of the falls”, the Victoria Falls Hotel, itself.

Riding on the crest of renewed interest in the Zimbabwean market — albeit short-lived — following a coup in November last year and the subsequent economic developments, the country was seen as the new investment frontier. Toppling of long-time ruler Robert Mugabe ushered a new glimmer of hope, while the new government of President Emmerson Mnangagwa embraced a reform agenda under the mantra “Zimbabwe is open for business”.

The first half of 2018 reported 21% growth in the local tourism sector in Zimbabwe. A number of hotels in Victoria Falls reported record occupancies up to August 2018, attributed largely to the newly-built Victoria Falls International Airport and more frequent flights being added by local and international airlines.

Victoria Falls alone has recorded a 50% increase in tourist arrivals this year, with some hotels fully booked for the rest of the year, according to Tourism minister, Prisca Mupfumira.

Mupfumira said hotels in Victoria Falls last experienced 100% bookings in 1999.

Nonetheless, Nyazema believes the renewed interest and optimism in Zimbabwe after the change of leadership in the country offers a great opportunity for investors seeking to leverage on the uncultivated luxury tourism market within Victoria Falls. Tourism operators, mainly in the Victoria Falls, have recorded occupancy levels of nearly 90% since the beginning of the year with some recording advance bookings for 2019.

Each standard suite at Mbano features high rafters, open ceilings and large windows allowing natural light to flow in and providing a cool interior. The suites comprise a relaxing lounge area, a spacious bedroom, modern best-in-class bathroom, as well as a dressing room. A generous veranda offers guests the opportunity to relax outdoors while enjoying the beauty of the lush site and sounds of nature. The suites are equipped with modern essentials, such as air conditioning, television and wi-fi connectivity

The hotel also has a presidential villa which boasts of its own gardens, plunge pool and individual access. Besides a king-size bedroom, it is also complemented by fine finishings and luxury couple amenities, generous veranda and a discreet plunge pool allowing guests to cool down in privacy.

Nyazema, who grew up in Zimbabwe and worked in South Africa as a director at the Tsogo Sun Group and managed one of Africa’s leading congress venues, the Sandton Convention Centre in Johannesburg, says the global luxury hotels market continues to expand, characterised by high-end experiences.

“People are choosing to spend their money on experiences that create memories. At Mbano, we have designed our product and guest experiences to embrace the latest trends, such as responsible tourism, perceptive dining, and a simple focus on rest and a pronounced sleep experience,” Nyazema says.

South Africa, Botswana, Kenya, Namibia, Mozambique, Zambia and Tanzania have attracted high-end clients to their top hotels and exclusive game lodges. Zimbabwe in particular is poised to take its natural share of this high-end market and attract foreign investment in Zimbabwe. Attracting foreign investment to the area can provide much-needed financial support to stimulate the local travel and tourism sector, and drive job-creation.”

Nyazema says construction and “a big part of the design brief was to come up with an environmentally-friendly luxury hotel that respects its natural surroundings”.

She brings 30 years of tourism and hospitality experience, including involvement in global travel companies and hotel start-ups in several African countries.

She will lead the management team of the hotel.

Friday 2 November 2018

Tourist capital gets $165 million resort facility

MOSI-OA-TUNYA Resort Holdings Limited plans to construct a five-star hotel, a golf course and a 600-seater convention centre in Livingstone at a cost of US$ 165 million next year in June.
An environmental impact assessment public consultation meeting was held last week.
The company will sign a 50-year lease agreement with the Department of National Parks and Wildlife to construct the hotel in the Mosi-oa-tunya national park.

Ministry of Tourism and Arts Permanent Secretary Howard Sikwela said in an interview that the proposed project that will help increase bed space in Livingstone will also have a kids’ park.

Source: Tourist capital gets $165 million resort facility (01/11/18)