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Friday 31 May 2019

Exclusive tented camp set to open in Zambezi Nat'l Park

Isibindi Africa Lodges is opening an exclusive tented camp, Tsowa Safari Island, on a small island in Zambezi National Park, about 25 miles upstream from Victoria Falls.
The modern and intimate tented camp will open on Aug. 1 and will only welcome 12 guests at a time on safari, making the camp uniquely personable. The island on which the camp is situated is just 5,000 feet long and about 1,300 feet wide and has never been inhabited. It is fringed by lush forests in the middle of the park, which is home to lions, elephants, buffaloes, giraffes, sables and numerous antelopes.
The large, airy safari tents are nestled on the edge of the island on the banks of the Zambezi River. Each tent has a small, covered verandah set on the river's edge and looks directly across to Zambezi National Park on the mainland. Wildlife frequents the water's edge in the late afternoon and early morning. The ensuite bathrooms have a large indoor shower and a separate outdoor shower.
Activities include game drives and walks on the mainland of the park. Daily guided walks are offered, along with a sundowner cruise or canoe trip on the river.
Rates, which start from $440 per person, per night, are fully inclusive of accommodations, meals, local drinks, game drives and walks, guided island walks, sundowner cruises, guided canoeing, one return trip to Victoria Falls and laundry.

Wednesday 29 May 2019

African Sun sheds light on Legacy management deal

There has been a lot of developments in the tourism industry recently and chief among them involved the relationship between African Sun Limited (ASL) and Legacy Hospitality Management Services Limited that has been terminated.
The Herald Business (HB) caught up with African Sun Limited managing director Mr Edwin Shangwa (ES) and discussed a number of issues related to this matter and other issues in the tourism sector. The following are some excerpts of the discussion.
HB: There has been a number of articles in the press about your organisation but the one that I’d like to discuss today is your relationship with Legacy Hospitality Management Services. What is going on? 
ES: Legacy Hospitality Management Services Limited used to manage African Sun Limited’s five hotels namely Elephant Hills Resort, The Kingdom at Victoria Falls, Hwange Safari Lodge, Monomotapa Hotel and Troutbeck Resort in Nyanga. However, as stated in our announcement in the print media last week, that relationship has since been terminated as of April 24, 2019.
HB: So what exactly were Legacy involved in at African Sun and is that relationship peculiar to the arrangement you had with them or its common place in hospitality?
ES: African Sun Limited engaged Legacy Hospitality Management Services Limited in October 2015 to manage the five said properties as African Sun Limited at that time changed its business model.
So what we had in place was a management agreement where Legacy Hospitality Management Services Limited were supposed to be involved in supervision and sharing of expertise through established methods and procedures for the good of the business in return for a fee.
HB: In that arrangement, who was responsible for what?
ES: African Sun Limited owned the business, they employed all the staff and therefore carried the risk and profit in this relationship.
Legacy in turn seconded a few senior employees who were paid by African Sun Limited and over and above Legacy Hospitality Management Services received the previously mentioned fee for their management services.
HB: From your response it seems Legacy then did not invest any capital expenditure on African Sun Hotels since the management agreement came into place?
ES: Legacy Hospitality Management Services Limited would not have invested any money into African Sun Limited, as that is not the norm in the hospitality industry Management Agreements. African Sun Limited were the one that picked up the whole capital expenditure in the period which by the end of 2018 stood at US$4 million.
This is because we believe in improving our product to give our guests an exceptional experience when they step into our hotels. To that end in 2019 we have planned to spend US$11 million in product improvements and expansions.
HB: There is the issue of US$60 million investment over a period of 30 years, which also appears in certain media publications, what was that about? 
ES: True, there is an impression that Legacy was going to spend US$60 million towards refurbishing African Sun Hotels which is not so. All capital expenditure was and still is to the account of African Sun Limited.
HB: You mentioned earlier in the interview that Legacy had their own employees seconded to African Sun for the past three and half years?
ES: Yes, there were few employees seconded by Legacy to work at African Sun Hotels. At the time of termination there was only one employee on secondment to one of the hotels out of the five. At most, we had three employees seconded by Legacy to our hotels during the period October 2015 to April 2019.
HB: How did African Sun Limited perform financially before and after the Legacy Management Services (Private) Limited management agreement?
ES: As a public listed company, African Sun Limited results are published annually and we’ve just announced our 2018 results. However, it is worth noting that African Sun Limited in the hospitality industry in Zimbabwe owns and manages a total of 10 hotels and then is in a 50:50 partnership with Meikles Hospitality Private Limited in managing The Victoria Falls Hotel.
Therefore ascribing African Sun Limited’s performance as a group to some of the group’s hotels would be a misnomer. It would only make sense to compare the five hotels’ business performance before and during the management agreement period.

Friday 24 May 2019

Vic Falls embraces wine tourism

Leonard Ncube in Victoria Falls

THE resort town of Victoria Falls is pursuing a new trend in tourism by encouraging hoteliers and operators to adopt wine tourism.
A few days ago, 13 wine tasters from different tourism players across the country took part in the wine tasting festival called ‘Zimbabwe Sommelier Cup Qualifier’ at Victoria Falls Hotel.

The event was in preparation for the grand wine tasting festival organized by Wines of South Africa (WoSA) in Cape Town, South Africa in September.

Initially 22 competitors had registered for the competition with 13 managing to participate.

Wine is a pull factor in many destinations with key tourism markets identifying food and wine as deciding factors in picking a holiday destination.

Tourism experts believe travellers select holiday destinations based on type and availability of wine as one of the deciding factors as wine is one of the sophisticated beverages well sought after by tourists.

Mutare-based Takura Makadzange emerged the winner after shrugging off close contest from Sikhangele Ndlovu and Maxene Chigidi of Victoria Falls. WoSA Zimbabwean agent Ms Kuda Hove said wine was a key pull factor in tourism.

“The event was well attended and we will have training in October. Victoria Falls already draws thousands of visitors on its own and the added benefit of having a world class selection of wine lists as well as Sommeliers Cup is likely to attract more visitors to this destination in the way of wine tourism,” she said.

“Wine is known as a sophisticated beverage and in tourism that creates varied travel options. Tourists are more than happy to have wine included in their itinerary or to visit a wine region,” she said.
Participants were mostly from around Victoria Falls.

The three winners will represent the country in South Africa
The participants went through an examination, blind tasting contest and welcoming guests among other activities. 

This involved tasting wine while blindfolded and then indentifying its type and brand, colour, intensity of aromas, aroma characteristics, palate, flavour characteristics, vintage like, when it was produced and naming the grape(s) variety used in the wine.

Preliminary rounds in individual countries will end in August while the final to be held in Cape Town, will take place from 19–26 September. Country representatives will be hosted in South Africa and tour the winelands.

They will visit some of Cape Town’s most prestigious wineries for wine tasting where they will mix and mingle with some of South Africa’s best wine tasters. South Africa is not participating for fairness in the competition since it is home to the best wines. 
WoSA represents  more than 500 wine producers in South Africa who export about 20 million litres into the world. 

Traditional markets include the United Kingdom, Germany, Sweden and the Netherlands, United States, Canada, China, Japan and some African countries. 

Victoria Falls hosted the first ever wine festival last year when it was revealed that Zimbabwe imports about 1,5 million litres of wine annually from SA.

Thursday 23 May 2019

Local firm wins international recycling award

Victoria Falls Recycling has received international recognition, winning an award at a leading travel show “We Are Africa” held in Cape Town recently.

The “We Are Africa Innovation Awards” celebrate the best in independently-minded, brilliantly-executed travel ideas, and Victoria Falls Recycling won the Engage Africa award, which recognises community collaboration to build a more united Africa.
Africa Albida Tourism (AAT) chief executive Ross Kennedy, whose hospitality group launched Victoria Falls Recycling a year ago said: “Recognition of projects such as Victoria Falls Recycling by industry peers and independent judges always enhances the accolade and pride for the dedicated people involved.”
Kennedy commended conservationist Charlene Hewat, the driving force behind the project, together with AAT group operations manager Andy Conn and the Victoria Falls Recycling team for the recognition.
“The next stage is to build a new recycling centre on land provided by Victoria Falls Municipality, where a retail outlet will also be set up, to sell products created from recycled waste,” he said.
“We are immensely proud to be involved in the founding, funding and operation of Victoria Falls Recycling.”
In a statement, AAT said since Victoria Falls Recycling was launched in March last year, in partnership with Greenline Africa, the Victoria Falls Municipality and PetrecoZim, it has collected and baled more than 24 tonnes of waste – paper, plastics, glass, kaylite, cans and packaging – for recycling.
Hewat, who is the project co-ordinator, said the waste would otherwise have ended up in the dumpsite, rivers and wilderness areas in and around Victoria Falls, Zimbabwe’s top tourist destination and one of the Seven Natural Wonders of the World.
“Victoria Falls does not have a proper landfill site at the moment and, therefore, it is critical that we harvest and collect as much recyclable product as possible before it reaches the dumpsite,” Hewat said.
“Collection at source is the focus of the project. We started off with hotels, lodges and restaurants and will move to household collection mid-2019.”
Victoria Falls Recycling, which is the only recycling centre in the region, employs a team of three young people and works with locals who collect waste and are paid per kilogramme.

Wednesday 22 May 2019

Tourism sector targets 3 million visitors

ZIMBABWE’S tourism sector is targeting to receive an ambitious three million visitors by the end of this year compared to 2,5 million received in 2018, riding on improved international sentiment and aggressive destination marketing.

The Zimbabwe Tourism Authority (ZTA) said this yesterday, following the recent visit by a delegation of 343 Chinese tourists, which arrived in the country last week on a four-day expedition that ended on Sunday.

The delegation had keen interest in exploring strategic alliances and business opportunities in Zimbabwe.

“Chinese tourists’ expedition ends amid renewed expectation for bigger visitations from the East Asian country. With the sector chasing an ambitious three million visitors by year end and with China being one of the biggest source markets for tourism in the world, the group’s visit is expected to help market the country’s tourist attractions,” said ZTA. 

Tourist arrivals to Zimbabwe reached 2 579 974 in 2018, six percent up from 2 422 930 received in 2017.

The tourists from China are the first batch of at least 10 000 tourists from the East Asian country expected to visit Zimbabwe in the next five years. 

The delegation made their last stop at Victoria Falls — Zimbabwe’s most popular tourist destination.

The visitors enjoyed their moment on a boat cruise on the Zambezi River, capped off by a send-off dinner at Elephant Hills on Sunday evening.

The send-off ceremony was graced by several Government dignitaries including Environment, Tourism and Hospitality Industry Minister, Prisca Mupfumira.

The business and leisure tourists made a short shopping stop-over at Kuma Market, and then lunch at Boma before departing for China yesterday afternoon.

“This completes a four-day tour of the country, an expedition, which included a visit to Great Zimbabwe — the largest stone structure in Africa outside of Egypt,” said ZTA.

The visit followed a Memorandum of Understanding signed between Touchroad International Holdings Group and the Ministry of Environment, Tourism and Hospitality during President Emmerson Mnangagwa’s State visit to China in 2018.

The engagement offered Zimbabwe an opportunity to further raise its profile by showcasing new developments, destinations, offers and providing a platform for companies to network and do business. 

“The visit undoubtedly consolidated our visibility to East Asia, apart from also generating much needed foreign currency – the 343 delegation spent well over US$1 000 each. We hope to maintain our top-of-mind brand status confirmed by the recent milestone in which we were named the third must-visit destination in the world by international travel guide, Lonely Planet,” ZTA head of corporate affairs, Mr Godfrey Koti, said.

Tuesday 21 May 2019

Chinese delegation lights up Vic Falls

Leonard Ncube in Victoria Falls 

THE Chinese delegation of 343 business tourists lit up Victoria Falls resort town over the weekend as they filled the streets and booked for some tour activities.

The delegation, which was accompanied by Environment, Tourism and Hospitality Industry Minister Prisca Mupfumira, Matabeleland Provincial Affairs Minister Richard Moyo and officials from Zimbabwe Tourism Authority, landed in the resort town on Saturday afternoon and left yesterday.

Upon arrival, the delegation – led by Mr He Liehui of Touchroad International – went for a boat cruise and a tour of the Rainforest. They were escorted in several buses around town.

In the morning they visited various markets around town before a dinner at Elephant Hills where they wowed the crowd with opera performances coupled with music and dance.

Speaking at the event, Minister Mupfumira said the partnership with the Asian country will lead to strategic economic gains.

“This visit has been extraordinary and we would like to thank President Mnangagwa for welcoming our visitors. We had a business forum with them and some went to visit Great Zimbabwe before coming here today. 

Zimbabwe and China have a long standing all-weather relationship and what we have started is transforming into a strategic partnership in line with what the two countries’ Presidents agreed on when they met,” said Minister Mupfumira.

She appealed to the visitors to be Zimbabwe’s ambassadors.
“We want you to be Zimbabwe ambassadors and tell China and the whole world to visit our country. We hope you will come again to visit,” said the Minister.

Min Mupfumira also said that Government was already engaging towards a flight from China via Tanzania. Plans are also underway to open an office in Shanghai, China with the aim of linking up with Zimbabweans in Asia.

Yesterday the group had a cultural lunch at the same venue before departing for Harare

The leader of the delegation Mr He said Zimbabwe has potential to be a world class destination.

“This is our last day for the trip and we are grateful for the hospitality we received in Zimbabwe. The country has a lot of treasures and we believe it will be a world class destination in future,” he said, while promising to assist Government in developing the Shanghai office.

Before coming to Zimbabwe, the delegation visited Djibouti. @ncubeleon

Sunday 12 May 2019

Vic Falls Municipality stuck: Residents tell officials – you want to milk a dying cow

VICTORIA Falls residents, on Thursday rejected a budget adjustment proposal by the municipality which would have seen the cost of some services go up five times.
Residents have instead urged the local authority to bill hotels and business premises who they said have access to foreign currency.
At two meetings, held at Chinotimba Hall for wards 6, 9, and 10 as well as Chamabondo school for ward 11, residents told council officials that the local authority is trying to “milk a dying cow” by over-billing them.
Victoria Falls council had an RTGS$22 million budget, for 2019 approved by government in February.
However, management now feels the budget has since been eroded by inflation since the monetary policy statement presented in February which pegged the exchange rate between RTGS$ currency and US$ at 1:2.50. Since then the situation has changed with the local currency losing over half of its value at the official market  while the parallel market rate has shot through the roof to US$: 5RTGS$.
Council also wants to adjust the budget based on either 2.5 percent currency exchange rate or pegging prices at the parallel market rate.
At the meetings, residents vehemently opposed the proposals, arguing they are already saddled with huge debts and some of them have received summons from the same council to appear in court after failing to pay.
Ward 11 residents walked out of the meeting in anger leaving council officials who included councillor Edmore Zhou embarrassed.
They complained that the municipality sought to increase rates yet it does not employ locals but actually “imports labour from other provinces”.
“We can’t be paying more rates and bills when you don’t even employ locals. You bring people from elsewhere and they go back to pay rates in their places of origin yet we are expected to pay rates here,” fumed a resident.
The residents complained about lack of transparency and service delivery failure by council adding they have been paying for street lights for the past decade yet nothing has happened.
Earlier, Councillor Zhou had assured residents that the meeting was meant to gather their views about the supplementary budget, to top up on the current revenue plan for the year.
Residents urged council to be innovative in order to increase its revenue streams.
“Rates have changed and that’s why we are here to consult you on what we can do. Everything has gone up by around 300 or even 500% and we are saying can we adjust our budget especially on things we don’t pay for on daily basis,” said ward 4 councillor Patricia Mwale as she opened the meeting.
But one resident shot back almost immediately.
“The economy is rotten. Even if we say increase by 1 000% we will be here again for the same process next week because prices increase on daily basis.
“Can you find some projects to do like opening bars so you raise money than to rely on us,” said the resident.

Tuesday 7 May 2019

African Sun ends Legacy flirtation

Hotel and leisure chain, African Sun said on Friday it terminated a deal it entered into over three and a half years ago with South African group, Legacy Hospitality Management Services Limited (Legacy) to manage five of its local hotels.
The hotels, which were put under Legacy management and re-branded include Elephant Hills in Victoria Falls, Monomotapa in Harare, Troutbeck Resort in Nyanga, Hwange Safari Lodge and the Kingdom at Victoria Falls
At the time it was largely believed that deal to bring the Legacy franchise was pushed by African Sun’s controlling shareholders Brainworks Capital Management.
The private equity investment and advisory firm, Brainworks Capital Management had boosted its shareholding in African Sun to 55,11 percent after the closure of its mandatory offer to the hotelier’s minority shareholders in May 2015.
In respect of the latest development, African Sun said handover/takeover process was in the process.
“We would like to assure our stakeholders that this termination will not adversely affect the delivery of services at the relevant hotels,” said African Sun company secretary Venon Musimbe in a statement on Friday.
“If anything, we remain firmly focused on providing excellent service to our customers and growing value for all our shareholders.”
African Sun’s assets in Zimbabwe are Holiday Inn— Harare, Elephant hills — Victoria Falls, Holiday Inn — Bulawayo, Troutbeck Nyanga, Carribea Bay — Kariba, Beitbridge Express, Crowne Plaza Monomotapa — Harare, Great Zimbabwe — Masvingo, Victoria Falls Hotel, Kingdom at Victoria Falls and Hwange Safari lodge.
Last month, the hospitality group announced a 110 percent jump to US$10,14 million in profit for the year to December 2018 from $4,81 million posted in the prior comparable period.
Total revenue grew 32 percent to us$68, 50 million from 51,82 million reported last year spurred by 7 percentage point’s increase in occupancy to 59 percent from 52 percent recorded in the same period in 2017.
Revenue growth was also aided by 17 percent growth in average daily rate (ADR) to US$109 from US$93.
The group posted US$17,13 million EBIDTA, 78 percent above last year a result of growth in revenue and cost management.
The group earnings per share went up 111 percent to 1,18 cents from 0,56 cents.

Friday 3 May 2019

Dawn Properties eyes Vic Falls development

LISTED property investment holding company, Dawn Properties Limited has acquired a 3, 7-hectare land for new property developments in the resort town of Victoria Falls.
The land acquisition comes at a time when a number of companies have shown renewed interest in infrastructure development in the resort town. The move will add on to the company’s properties dotted around the country where it has interests in Kariba, Nyanga and Mutare. 
The expansion to Victoria Falls is set to position the group to capitalise on the anticipated boom in the tourism sector driven by the expected growth in tourist arrivals.
ZIMRE Property Investments is constructing a $13 million worth Sawanga Shopping Mall while African Sun is enhancing its hotels and properties in the area, among other corporate infrastructure projects being undertaken in the town.
In a statement accompanying the Group’s results for the year ended December 31, 2018 Dawn properties indicated that their investment prospects were eyeing the Hwange and Victoria Falls areas, with a number of infrastructure construction projects up the sleeve.
“Investment portfolio focus remains on increasing our exposure to Victoria Falls and Hwange. To that end the company has purchased additional land in Victoria Falls (3,7 hectares) exciting new projects are being planned for the two areas and will be announced as and when construction commences,” it said.
“Property development continues to enhance internal capacity and execution of a number of pipeline projects. Our land bank gives the company the ability to create a sustainable business unit going forward.” 
The company is on the purple patch as it recorded a 117 percent growth in revenue in the period under review by US$6, 1 million to US$11, 2 million from US$5, 1 million realised the same period in 2017.
he steady growth was credited to mixed portfolio performance as overall properties performed better than 2017 by 36 percent stemming from rentals, which were increased by 46 percent at Elephant Hills Hotel and conference while Troutbeck Resort and Holiday Inn Mutare increased by 40 and 36 percent respectively.