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Friday 28 December 2018

Fire razes Victoria Falls’ Lookout cafe

Lookout Café in Victoria Falls was on Christmas Eve reduced to ashes by a fire suspected to have been caused by an electric fault.

Firefighters from the Victoria Falls Municipality were called but could not salvage the wooden and grass thatched structure.
The café which is operated by Wild Horizons, one of the leading tour operating companies in the country, employs 30 people.
Wild Horizons chief executive Mr Gary Archer confirmed the incident.

“At 4:20AM on the 24th of December 2018, Lookout Café Victoria Falls was destroyed by fire. The café will be closed for the foreseeable future,” said Mr Archer.
He said no one was injured.
Mr Archer said tourism activities such as highwire activities were not affected and will continue to operate as usual.
These activities include gorge swing and gorge view, zip line and flying fox.
“We would like to take this opportunity to thank the Victoria Falls fire brigade for their speedy and professional assistance in containing and putting out the fire. Investigations are ongoing while some insurance assessors are also coming to investigate.
“We’ll go through all processes and will communicate after the findings are out but for now we are concerned about this unfortunate incident and what to do with the 30 workers who are affected. We will however start repairs soon,” said Mr Archer.
Tourists preferred Lookout Café to other eateries because it is strategically positioned facing the gorge.
Victoria Falls Municipality public relations and economic development officer Mr Ngqabutho Moyo said: “Our fire fighters attended the scene and investigations are ongoing.
“However, people need to be educated about fires and their occurrence. Some people want to put out fire themselves or drive from the premises to look for help. Residents should use emergency numbers to call the fire brigade or police.” 

Saturday 22 December 2018

Zimbabwe 2018 tourism arrivals hit record high, hopeful operators expand facilities

Tourist arrivals in Zimbabwe will end the year at a record 2.7 million, after a boom in the traditionally slow first half and increased traffic via the new Victoria Falls Airport gave leading operators their “best year ever”.
Arrivals in the first quarter, which is usually a low business period for the industry, was up by 50%, according to Government data, corroborated by leading private players such as Africa Albida, which says occupancy at its facilities is at its highest ever level.
“We expect to end the year with 2.7 million visitors to Zimbabwe as hotel occupancy levels in major resorts such as Victoria Falls are now over 80%. We are working to attract more investors to build more hotels in order to sustain increased business levels and meet demand for hotel rooms,” says Tourism Minister Prisca Mupfumira.
This would be higher than the 2.25 million visitors reached in 1999, Mupfumira said. Tourism was one of Zimbabwe’s major industries, but it collapsed after violent land takeovers and elections kept visitors from traditional source markets in Europe and North America away.
Africa Albida says occupancy at its flagship operation, the Victoria Falls Safari Lodge, was 81.5% in the year to September, up from 71.7% over the same period last year, according to company PR Marianne Betts. The facility had experienced its busiest August ever, with occupancy of 88%. Occupancy across ten hotels in the town rose from 53.6% to 58.7% year-on-year,
Company CEO Ross Kennedy attributed the growth to the expansion of Victoria Falls International Airport. “The new Victoria Falls Airport, with its geographical hub location, plus much enhanced route access and connectivity, has played a part in the growth of the destination”.
Surprise boom time
This year, all major tourism operators reported a strong first half year.
Africa Sun, in its results for the first half, reported “remarkable increase in volumes across the hotels”, as its city hotels benefitted from elections while its Victoria Falls operations “benefited from increased foreign arrivals”.
Occupancy level increased 10 percentage points to 55 percent in the first half. International arrivals rose by an average of 15%. The company is betting on infrastructure projects, such as the upgrade of the Robert Gabriel Mugabe International Airport and the Beitbridge highway for further recovery.
Patrick Matute, MD of Dawn Properties, owner of the facilities operated by African Sun, said of the half year: “Trading conditions improved significantly for our tenant AfricanSun, with a better than expected performance in what is traditionally their low peak period”.
Hotel operator Brainworks saw its occupancy rates rising 20% in the first half of this year, attributed by CEO Brett Childs to the change of president last year and the new airport at Vic Falls.
According to Wilderness Safaris, forward bookings from North America, Europe and the UK grew this year, as did demand for longer itineraries in the safari areas.
While Zimbabwe’s tourism sector was in crisis, facilities fell behind other markets on quality. Companies are now looking to invest in building new tour facilities or renovating existing ones.
At Meikles, executive chairman John Moxon said recently that the company is expanding the Victoria Falls Hotel to meet increased demand for rooms.
Rainbow Tourism Group also has set aside $1 million to redo 88 rooms at Victoria Falls. So far, 46 rooms have been renovated.
Brainworks Brett sold its financial services business to focus on tourism, according to CEO Childs. There has not been any new large hotel built in Zimbabwe for years, and the company is now buying land to build new hotels to prepare for higher demand.
Africa Sun head Edwin Shangwa, at an AGM mid-year, told shareholders that the company was refurbishing Holiday Inn Mutare, Kariba’s Caribbea Bay, Hwange Safari Lodge and the Victoria Falls Hotel.
Off the beaten track
However, more and more tourists are looking away from traditional accommodation and looking for adventures elsewhere.
Sharon Stead, of Amalinda Safari, told the Telegraph of UK recently: “There’s now more interest in destinations off the beaten track.”
Operators are investing in building facilities that meet the demands of such visitors, with new bush lodges and tented camps planned.
Great Plains Conservation, which operates retreats in Botswana’s Okavango Delta, recently acquired some land in Sapi, near Mana Pools, where it is building camps, according to its head Jonathan Hudson. Great Plains also plans to build a luxury camp in the Zambezi National Park.
Wilderness Safaris this year reopened Little Makalolo, a bush camp in the Hwange National Park, which had been closed for years. Zambezi Cruise Safaris plans to open Kulizwe Marina Lodge in Binga Town and the Crowned Eagle Boutique Hotel overlooking Kariba.
Companies are also targeting low-budget and domestic tourists, with Shearwater investing $35 million into low-cost lodges across the country. The company has already completed the Explorers’ Village, a cluster of low-cost lodges at Vic Falls, at a cost of $4 million.
For the first time in years, this year Zimbabwe got some good PR from the global travel press, with positive reviews from media such Telegraph Travel, Huffington Post and The Vanity Fair and recommendations by travel platforms such as Lonely Planet, National Geographic, Japan’s Seichi Travel and Frommers.
But while the half year was good, the last quarter has seen the return of fuel queues, rising inflation and worsening foreign currency shortages, factors that may slow the recovery in 2019. Many operators are still uncertain as to how to treat foreign currency payments, according to Tourism Business Council president Paul Matamisa. “It doesn’t look like there is common way of how do we do things and that creates a lot of problems for operators,” Matamisa was quoted as saying recently.
Poor air access inside the country remains also a key concern. Air Zimbabwe was this year placed under administration, although Transport Minister Joel Matiza confirms that the company is looking to buy three Embraer E145 by the first quarter of 2019 for the airline to work regional and domestic routes.
Zimbabwe is also far more expensive than its regional competitors, such as Zambia, Botswana, Kenya and Mozambique.

Friday 21 December 2018

Historic King Lewanika monument on verge of collapsing into Zambezi River

(By Edwin Mbulo in Livingstone)
A NATIONAL Monument for the historic visit to the Zambezi Boat Club by King Lubosi Lewanika of the Lozi speaking people with his son Litia to welcome the Duke and Duchess of Connaught is in a depraved state and on the verge of falling into the river.

A visit to the Zambezi Boat Club in Livingstone by The Mast revealed the monument needs urgent repair.
Government has been under attack over the K370,000 the Bank of Zambia spent to rehabilitate the Kabwe Fig tree, which is on the K50 note.
UNZA’s development studies lecturer Dr Charity Musamba asked the government to publicise the expenditure outline for the tree in Kabwe.
Dr Musamba said the country was informed that the expenditure for renovating the fig tree so that it meets the heritage standards of conservation was over K300,000.
Locally known as Mukuyu, the tree is located at Kabwe’s Freedom Way Square and attracts a number of visitors who take shelter under its massive canopy.
The Bank of Zambia in partnership with the National Heritage Conservation Commission (NHCC) funded the rehabilitation of the national monument in Kabwe.
However, the cost of rehabilitation has sparked consternation among members of the public, especially on social media, who argue that there was no economic justification to ‘fund’ a tree when many homes, even in Kabwe itself, were inundated by hunger.
Contrary to the Kabwe monument, the monument in Livingstone inscribed with GR I in Livingstone is on the verge of collapsing and plunging into the Zambezi River.
The Boat Club building is one of the many National Monuments in Livingstone and draws much of its history from the British Royal visit and also the famous Rowing Regatta, a water sport that was introduced in 1905 at the site.
In 1910, the Duke and Duchess of Connaught visited South Africa to open the first session of the Union Parliament and then proceeded on a tour of Southern and Northern Rhodesia.
“The Litunga Lubosi Lewanika and other Barotse royalty travelled to Livingstone for the occasion and were accommodated in town. Lewanika arranged an exhibition and demonstration of traditional Lozi crafts in the Barotse Centre (now Mukuni Park), of which he took the visitors on a conducted tour,” NHCC historical documents reveal.
Several Zambezi Boat Club members under the leadership of a prominent lawyer, John Kapepe, have revealed that letters have been written to NHCC with regards the poor state of the national monument.
However, NHCC South West senior conservation officer Richard Mbewe said an assessment of the costs for the repair of the monument, which he did not disclose, have been done and sent to Lusaka.
“We hope the funds will be released before January so that we can rehabilitate the monument. It is true that it may fall into the Zambezi River but we hope to carry out the repairs before it does so. We will push for the funds and our conservation team is going to Lusaka this week, so we will push,” said Mbewe.

Thursday 6 December 2018

Hotel occupancy up to 60%

Hospitality Association of Zimbabwe (HAZ) president Innocent Manyera, told NewsDay that industry had performed fairly well with some hotels already declaring profits before year-end.
“Excitement came from the Zimbabwe open for business mantra during the first half of the year that saw people travelling to Zimbabwe for workshops. The elections period also saw an increase in occupancies during preparation months and post-election period. There was also a boom in travellers to Victoria Falls,” Manyera said.
“There was a positive trajectory to that extent and more tourists plying Victoria Falls, in particular using air and road as a mode of transport. The forecast is to close above 60% in occupancy, though December will be kind of low due to less workshops undertaken, which is a major driver of occupancies in our country”.
However, the cholera outbreak in the first half of the year affected some lined up workshops for city hotels and travel by regional as well as international travellers, he said.
Manyera added that the sector was still in need of capitalisation to retool, as most of their assets were tired.
“We also need serious considerations on the pricing from our suppliers where we face three to four pricing system, US, bond, cash, swipe among others,” he said.
“Environmental issues need to be looked into. There are no tight laws on issues to manage garbage, culture change on littering as well as traffic laws to avoid hitch hiking on roads and places close to hospitality entities.”
Along with mining and agriculture, the tourism industry is expected to play a key role in generating the much-needed foreign currency and generating employment.
Under the recently developed National Tourism Recovery and Growth Strategy — Vision 2025, government seeks to regain lost market share in the traditional markets of Europe, America, Australia and Japan, penetrate new markets in Eastern Europe, China and India in Asia as well as growing the domestic market so as to enhance the contribution of tourism to the national economy.
The target is to increase tourist arrivals from the anticipated 2,7 million in 2018 to over 5,5 million by 2023, as well as growing tourism receipts from $1 billion in 2017 to $3,5 billion by 2023.
Marketing efforts also target to increase the average length of stay from five days four nights in 2015 to nine days eight nights by 2023, increase the share of overseas market from 20% in 2017 to 40% by 2023 and subsequently increase the contribution of tourism to employment creation from the current 200 000 (direct, indirect and induced employment) in 2016 to about 500 000 by 2023.

Tuesday 4 December 2018

Airlines increase capacity. . .Tourists flood Vic Falls

Leonard Ncube in Victoria Falls
SOUTH Africa Airways (SAA) has replaced its wide bodied aircraft A330-222 with a much bigger 330-300 on its Johannesburg-Victoria Falls route due to demand.
The move comes soon after Ethiopian Airlines also increased frequency from three to four days per week on its route between Addis Ababa-Victoria Falls-Gaborone-Addis Ababa.
The year 2018 has been a remarkable year for the tourism industry, which experienced unprecedented growth in arrivals resulting in airlines increasing capacity.
Regarded as one of the leading airlines in Southern Africa, SAA launched its wide-bodied 222-seater airbus flight to Victoria Falls last year following the completion of the $150 million Victoria Falls International Airport upgrade.
It’s has now further increased its capacity by 27 seats from 222 to 249 as more tourists fly into Victoria Falls.
The new look airport facility can now accommodate wide bodied aircraft and has capacity to handle more than 1.5 million passengers annually.
Airport manager, Mr Ronnie Masawi, said this was a sign of positive growth on the destination.
“SAA started using airbus 330-300 on November 29 as it increased capacity by additional seats. This might look like a small figure but it means increased capacity and translates to huge numbers cumulatively,” said Mr Masawi.
“The year 2018 has seen a very significant increase in numbers where new entrance airlines have also consolidated their services.”
Tourism Business Council of Zimbabwe (TBCZ) representative, Mrs Barbara Murasiranwa, said air travel was becoming more popular with travellers due to challenges associated with road transport.
“This means an increase in business while people are growing more confident in air travel to Vic Falls especially as self-drivers face challenges of badly serviced roads and fuel shortages,” said Mrs Murasiranwa.
“The plane is amazingly beautiful and it’s economy class looks like business class if compared to other airlines thereby bringing luxury flights to Victoria Falls.”
SAA, which also flies to Harare and Bulawayo, will be alternating the airbus with a much bigger aircraft where there is high demand.
SAA is a Star Alliance member and operates in over 40 destinations across the globe, with over 14 000 weekly connections through its global partners’ network with OR Tambo International Airport as the main hub.
It carries over six million passengers annually across the network as it competes with world class airlines.
Other airlines flying into Victoria Falls include Air Zimbabwe, Air Namibia, British Airways, Fastjet, Kenyan Airways and SA Airlink.
The Victoria Falls International Airport has been regarded as a game changer in the country’s tourism and aviation as its expanded 4km and 60 metres wide runway can accommodate wide bodied aircraft such as B747, B777, Airbus A340 and A380 among others.

Monday 3 December 2018

Victoria Falls mall 65% complete

ZIMRE Property Investment (Zimre) has so far spent $9,2 million on its shopping mall in Victoria Falls which is now 65% complete.

Providing above 5 000 square metres of lettable space, the $13 million Sawanga Shopping Mall consists of 23 shops, banks, concept houses, food courts, restaurants, coffee shops, a service station and curio shops.

Zimre property manager, Stephen Kapfunde, told NewsDay in e-mailed responses that the mall would be operational by end of this month.

"The shopping mall is approximately at 65% completion and we expect the contractor to finish off most of the brickwork and to have the balance of the roof sheets on the mall in two weeks' time from now," Kapfunde said.

"About $9.2million has been spent on the project to date and it is scheduled for practical completion by end of December 2018," he said.

The mall is one of Zimre's major projects while the company has also been converting its Nicoz House Bulawayo from offices to student accommodation.

Kapfunde said the company has several projects lined up, including an office park development in Borrowdale; a townhouse development in Westgate, Harare; Selbourne Park in Bulawayo; an industrial park in Bluff Hill, Harare, and a residential development in Victoria Falls.

"The land for all these developments has already been acquired and the projects are at different stages of implementation. Some are at design stage, some are awaiting approval."

Source: Victoria Falls mall 65% complete (2/12/18)

Sunday 2 December 2018

American tourist injured in hippo attack

AN American tourist is lucky to be alive after she was attacked by a hippo as she canoed with her husband on the Zambezi River in Victoria Falls Saturday morning.
Christine Yaldor, 37, was rushed to a private hospital in the resort town where she was treated for leg injuries, Zimbabwe Parks and Wildlife Management authorities said.
“The couple was attacked by a hippo when they peddled closer to it. The woman sustained injuries on the leg and was rushed to hospital after being rescued by tour guides,” said a source who witnessed the attack.
Zimbabwe National Parks and Wildlife Management Authority spokesperson Tinashe Farawo confirmed the incident.
“I can confirm that an American woman was attacked by a hippo while canoeing. She sustained some injuries on her leg but she has been since treated and the wound dressed,” he said.
“Our message remains the same, we urge tourists to be vigilant and extra careful. Never underestimate these animals. Simply stay away from them. Let us be careful and avoid unnecessary deaths and injuries.”

New cruise boat for Vic Falls

By Leonard Ncube
Shearwater Adventures has acquired a 100-seater up-market cruise boat to cater for executive tourist clientele. The two-deck boat was manufactured by a Bulawayo company at a cost of about $500 000 and is already in Victoria Falls ready for use on the Zambezi River.

Shearwater spokesperson Mr Clement Mukwasi said the development was a response to demand by the market in the wake of renewed interest in destination Zimbabwe.
“This is a 100-seater boat but we’ll use it as a 60-seater because the facility we are providing is not an ordinary cruise. We’re doing an up-market luxury cruise whose price and target market is different from the ordinary market,” he said.