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Wednesday 31 July 2019

Zambia, Botswana to construct railway across Zambezi

Zambia and Botswana have signed a US $259m agreement to construct a 430km long railway to link the two countries across the Kazungula Bridge.
Zambia Railways Ltd and Botswana Railways’ boards resolved during a meeting held in Kasane to facilitate the construction of the lengthy line and a show of cooperation. According to Zambia Railways board chairperson Lubinda Linyama, construction of the project scheduled to begin soon after the 900-metre-long Kazungula bridge is completed and commissioned by June next year.
The railway project  dubbed, “Mosetse-Kazungula-Livingstone”, is aimed to reduce transit time and transportation costs for both the people and boost trade trade in the Southern African Development Community (SADC). The actual cost of the project will be established after undertaking a feasibility study.
“The project was proven feasible and as a quicker means of  transporting  goods and passengers in addition to roads to ease transportation problems and once completed will benefit all other countries in the 16-country-member region and bolster trade in real time,” said Mr. Lubinda.
“Zambia is up to date with its financial obligations for the construction of the Kazungula bridge which we are co- financing with Botswana to accelerate its completion,” he added.
Linyama also allayed fears that the bridge would not be complete in due course following rescheduling of the completion timetable but assured that the two countries were determined to ensure the project was completed as planned despite challenges faced in recent months.
“We are determined to undertake this (railway line) project despite the challenges that may arise.” said the board chairperson.

Victoria Falls lodge among Africa’s best

Leonard Ncube in Victoria Falls
A UNITED States magazine, Travel + Leisure, has named Victoria Falls Safari Lodge as the 5th top resort hotel in Africa, as Zimbabwe continues to make an impact on the tourism front.
Victoria Falls Safari Lodge is one of the many tourism facilities under the grand banner of leading hospitality group Africa Albida Tourism (AAT).
Travel + Leisure is a travel magazine based in New York with 4,8 million readers worldwide. It is published 12 times a year by Meredith Corporation. 
Its readers share their opinions of their travel experiences on the top hotels, resorts, cities, islands, cruise ships, spas, airlines and hotels are rated on their facilities, location, service, food and overall value.
This is the ranking in which Victoria Falls Safari Lodge came 5th after La Residence in Franschhoek of South Africa, Beyond Mnemba Island of Zanzibar in Tanzania, Beyond Sossusvlei Desert Lodge based in Namib-Naukluft National Park in Namibia and Birkenhead House, Hermanus also of South Africa, which ranked position 1 to 4 respectively.
The hotel based in the Zambezi National Park in the country’s prime resort town is the only Zimbabwean property that featured and scored 87,76 points for the month of July. AAT chief executive Mr Ross Kennedy said the group was thrilled to be among the best.
“Africa Albida Tourism is thrilled its flagship property Victoria Falls Safari Lodge has been named among Africa’s top five resort hotels by high profile US magazine, Travel +Leisure,” he said. 
“This accolade, coming in our 25th year of operating the Victoria Falls Safari Lodge, is so rewarding for every member of the Africa Albida Tourism team. It speaks to our consistency, constant upgrades and enhancements, quality of service delivery and hospitality along with the dedication and commitment of every person involved.”
Mr Kennedy said the hospitality group was grateful to every traveller and client that has stayed at the hotel. 
The awards are among the world’s best and the most prestigious in the travel industry with readers being the judges. 
AAT also runs several other properties such as the Victoria Falls Safari Club and Victoria Falls Safari Suites and lodges. 
A few months ago, international holiday rental search engine, HomeToGo, also named Zimbabwe among the top 10 trending destinations, ranking number six for United Kingdom-based tourists. 
The search engine said the destinations were chosen based on the year-on-year increases in searches in January 2019 compared to January 2018.
The country also won an award for the most sustainable tourist destination at the International Tourism Bourse in Germany and was also voted as the third must-visit destination after Sri Lanka and Germany. National Geographic has also acknowledged the country as one of the prime tourist destinations in the world. — @ncubeleon

Tuesday 23 July 2019

The Royal Livingstone Victoria Falls Zambia Hotel by Anantara empowers women and supports sustainable farming

The Royal Livingstone Victoria Falls Zambia Hotel by Anantara is proudly proving that authentic luxury can be enriched by adopting a mindful and holistic approach to day-to-day operations. The property’s recent initiatives incorporate smallholders into the hotel’s procurement process as part of its drive to empower local communities through sustainability projects, ensuring they get a share of the thriving tourism economy.
Zambia, home to Mosi-oa-Tunya National Park and Victoria Falls, has seen tourism numbers climb steadily over the past years making it Zambia’s fastest-growing national economic sector. Yet, while the more established businesses have been reaping the benefits, the smallholders are being pushed out. Watch the ‘Beyond Horizons’ video to find out more about the projects and their successes so far on A successful social media campaign is helping to drive awareness about these inspirational sustainability projects with far-reaching benefits. 
Livingstone is home to around 300 smallholder farmers traditionally relying on roadside stand sales. More often than not, failing to make the sale, they have little choice but to turn to the profiteering middlemen. By launching a biweekly Smallholder Farmers’ Market at the hotel’s warehouse, The Royal Livingstone essentially cut out the middleman by guaranteeing to buy all of the crop directly from the smallholders, at a fair price. 
Zambia’s women farmers are no strangers to specialist produce, and the Maramba Women’s Mushroom Farm grows mushrooms that inspire world-class chefs. The farm was saved from closure by investment from The Royal Livingstone Hotel. The farm’s reach extends beyond specialist agriculture, by providing education, medication and support services to residents affected by HIV/AIDS. As a result of this initiative, 15 women are enabled to take care of 160 orphans, widows and vulnerable adults. 
At Nsongwe Women’s Farm - an indigenous fruit farm that employs more than 3,000 people – the Anantara team has trained the farm workers in sustainable agriculture techniques. Historically, even though women did much of the field work, men managed the marketing and sales of produce, seldom giving women access to earnings from production. The members have been trained in financial management and marketing principles and now sell most of their produce to local hotels and resorts through long-term contracts that ensure sustainability. Anyone can plant a seed, but not everyone has the skills needed to build and run a successful farming business like the Nsongwe Women’s Farm. 
Just as impactful is the Libuyu Women’s Peanut Butter Project empowering HIV-positive women by outfitting a peanut butter factory. From ensuring that the production process meets local health and safety standards, to designing and supplying uniforms and running regular sales and marketing workshops, the project has been instrumental in making local women self-reliant and confident in their future. Changing the lives of women daily, one jar of peanut butter at a time.
Taking the message global, Anantara Hotels & Resorts considered various ways of sharing the success story that is Royal Livingstone’s CSR programme. The result is the brand’s “Beyond Horizons” mini documentaries, available on and supported by a successful social media campaign, showcasing the breadth and variety of charitable and sustainability work carried out by Anantara properties worldwide.
Anantara Hotels & Resorts constantly reinforces its commitment towards environmental, social and cultural conservation. Special consideration is given to employing and empowering communities, and wherever possible, sustainable products and services are sourced locally. Around the world, Anantara Hotels & Resorts works in partnership with local communities and promote cultural awareness amongst guests by integrating indigenous culture into everyday experiences. 
Transporting viewers to some of the world’s most stunning yet fragile destinations, “Beyond Horizons” is an honest gaze into the environmental challenges faced by local communities as well as an invitation to start a dialogue about the urgent need to act as a united front to tackle them.
Shot on location, each of the videos in the Beyond Horizons series are narrated by Anantara CSR champions who share stories of progressive initiatives carried out at properties around the world through Anantara led charitable organisations such as the Thai based Golden Triangle Asian Elephant Foundation.

Wednesday 17 July 2019

Boma gets fresh look

The Boma – Dinner & Drum Show has a fresh look and feel, with its new décor capturing the style of the traditional Zimbabwean cooking hut, while the kitchen has been rebuilt and modernised and other structural enhancements made.
The US$250 000 refurbishment – completed last month – was done to keep pace with the growing popularity of this “must-do” Victoria Falls dining and entertainment experience, which opened its doors 27 years ago.
Africa Albida Tourism (AAT) chief executive, Ross Kennedy, said: “The levels of business experienced in 2018, coupled with the growth in the previous two years, led us to make the appropriate investment decisions to equip The Boma for the next five to 10 years.
“Keeping pace with the latest equipment and service delivery expectations, whilst maintaining the tastes, sights and sounds of The Boma – Dinner & Drum Show, were key factors in this major project,” he said.
“The machine that delivers The Boma experience has been modernised.  We set out to update The Boma without detracting from its essence.”
The main kitchen, which guests don’t see, and the main cookhouse, were gutted and rebuilt, new equipment installed, and structural changes and enhancements made to the serving areas, such as new granite surfaces and refridgeration of the salad and dessert bars.
Interior designer Belinda Jones said the concept for the décor came from the traditional cooking huts, and it was an amalgam of different Zimbabwean tribes.
“The Boma staff love it, because it reminds them, especially the entrance, of their grandmothers’ huts,” Jones said.
“It’s where the woman’s cooking utensils are proudly displayed. The traditional art form of decorating the walls and shelves with bright pigment goes back a while, but it is now being revived as a new art form,” she said.
“The women translate the rhythms of their lives into abstract patterns, but now include motifs from nature, both floral as well as animals,” she said.
AAT operates a portfolio of properties in Victoria Falls – Victoria Falls Safari Lodge, Victoria Falls Safari Club, Victoria Falls Safari Suites, Lokuthula Lodges and The Boma – Dinner & Drum Show, as well as Ngoma Safari Lodge in Chobe, Botswana.
Source: Boma gets fresh look (16/07/19)

Zim goes a gear up in drive to boost tourism

The world over, tourism is regarded a low hanging fruit that brings more attention to the entire orchard (country), as people search for more and more juicy fruits.
Zimbabwe is endowed with an array of tourism tapestries — from man-made up to those sired by natural phenomena — all these have the potential to attract investors who come first as tourists and then later as investors.
It is fact, not fiction, that many investors visit places as tourists first, fall in love with the place and what it offers and return as investors.
From the world famed Victoria Falls to the craggy magnificence of the Eastern Highlands, the rolling moorlands, high mountain heath, pristine wildlife, spooky caves, gothic ancient stone-without-mortar cities and a welcoming people, among others, Zimbabwe is a tourist attraction with something for everyone.
Zimbabwe and Britain share a lot of history from the days of colonialism to independence and promoting tourism development and investment between the two countries should not be difficult given that Zimbabwe has decided to rejoin the Commonwealth and has done everything in its powers to do so assiduously.
After the long hiatus in which the country was isolated through travel warnings and travels vetoes from the United States of America and the European Union in the old dispensation, Zimbabwe under the new dispensation has set its eyes on international re-engagement, and tourism had been identified as one of the major pillars of the country’s economic turnaround programme.
Tourism has further been recognised as a vital cog in the country’s Transitional Stabilisation Programme (TSP) and the attainment of Vision 2030.
Again, tourism has been identified as critical to Zimbabwe’s rejoining the Commonwealth, an organisation of former colonies of Great Britain.
It is in line with this new trajectory that Zimbabwe is taking its tourism tapestries to the United Kingdom, as it moves for an all-inclusive political and economic re-engagement.
Environment, Tourism and Hospitality Industry Minister Prisca Mupfumira and Zimbabwe Tourism Authority acting chief executive Rita Likukuma are in the UK to market Zimbabwe’s tourism tapestries as part of the country’s broader re-engagement.
The two are known for their negotiating skills, vision and resilience. They have planned roadshows and workshops throughout the UK.
The United Kingdom National Statistics Office (NSO) 2018 Report stated that there were 123 000 adult Zimbabweans in the United Kingdom who include 53 000 men and 70 000 women.
Among this huge Diaspora community are many equally committed to raise the profile of the country through partnerships or to promote the country to their families, friends and workmates.
Henceforth, this new Diaspora roadshow that will be in collaboration with ZIM-Thrive 2020.
Their visit comes hard on the heels of another top-drawer visit to the UK by Foreign Affairs Minister Sibusiso Moyo last week.
Of interest is that Zimbabwe is marketing its tourism tapestries based on its homegrown assets, the wonderful people and culture, rich history and heritage, the majestic Victoria Falls, the Great Zimbabwe, pristine wildlife and nature, the mystique of the Eastern Highlands, the mythical Kariba and the Mighty Zambezi River.
Critical to note is that President Mnangagwa has declared “Zimbabwe is now open for business” and has persistently, consistently and passionately enunciated this position as he articulates his vision.
Indeed, the tourism economy was closed for business, but the new leadership which ushered in the new political dispensation has done everything in its power to bring back lost glory in tourism.
Also critical is the fact that the Government recognises the tourism industry as one of the key economic sectors with the potential to increasingly contribute to national economic turnaround.
According to World Travel and Tourism Council (WTTC), which is the world body of the private sector, slightly over 300 000 people are employed either directly, indirectly or induced by the tourism sector in Zimbabwe.
That is not a small figure and it could be increased with new investment opportunities in Zimbabwe.
The sector lost out over the past two decades in terms of investment and tourist arrivals, hence the need to promote its growth and development.
It has been made clear that there is a serious investment opportunity in the accommodation sector in Zimbabwe as the country holds slightly more than 12 000 hotel rooms against a growing demand.
It should be noted that Zimbabwe has a less diversified product base and underinvested in terms of accommodation facilities (low- cost through to luxury facilities), convention centres and exhibition parks and entertainment facilities.
The envisaged tourism growth going into 2030 calls for increased tourism investment.
The increased tourism investment opportunities are expected to be unlocked through, among other issues, the following: the National Tourism Master Plan, National Tourism Sector Strategy, Vision 2025: National Tourism Recovery and Growth Strategy, the Victoria Falls Master Plan, the Kariba Master Plan and the Tokwe-Mukosi Master Plan.
This can further be enhanced by the nine Tourism Development Zones (TDZs), namely Beitbridge-Gwanda-Shashe-Limpopo; Masvingo-Great Zimbabwe-Chiredzi-Gonarezhou; Matopos; Kariba-Zambezi Valley; Mudzi, Lake Chivero-Manyame and the Midlands, that have already been designated.
Through Statutory Instrument 50 of 2006, tourism businesses in the designated TDZs are allowed to import capital goods duty free
The TDZs also come with the following tax breaks:
Duty exemption on specified capital goods imported for use in TDZs
Tax on the income of an operator is as follows: First five years of operation — 0 percent, second five years of operation (15 percent), third five years of operation (20 percent) and thereafter normal rates of corporate tax apply.
This is a big investment incentive.
The Government has also come up with the Special Economic Zones Act (Chapter 14:34) that has been coupled by special incentives provided for by SI 59 of 2017 to attract new investments into the Special Economic Zones (SEZ).
In that vein, Government has selected three locations for piloting the SEZ concept — Victoria Falls, Harare and Bulawayo.
The special incentives include rebate of duty on raw materials, intermediate products, equipment and machinery and trinkets that go with SEZ project status.
In terms of investment in conservation, the Government has come up with the Transfroniter Conservation Project.
In that case, Zimbabwe is a signatory to six Trans-Frontier Conservation Areas (TFCAs), which also provide opportunities for, especially in lodges and safari camps.
These TFCAs are Limpopo-Shashe (now Greater Mapungubwe); Kavango-Zambezi (KAZA); Lower Mana Pools; Zimbabwe-Mozambique-Zambia (ZIMOZA); Chimanimani and Greater Limpopo which include Gonarezhou National Park.
Both countries stand to benefit from renewed working together in tourism, development, marketing and investment.

Friday 12 July 2019

Victoria Falls records lowest water levels

The Victoria Falls has recorded the lowest water levels as of this month compared to previous years.
Victoria Falls World Heritage Site Manager John Zulu has attributed the early reduction of water to reduced amounts of rain fall during the last rainy season.
Mr. Zulu said the rocks at the falls usually become exposed in October and November when the water levels reduce, but this year the rocks are already showing.
He however said the Victoria Falls remains admirable throughout the year.
Mr. Zulu said the geological formation of the heritage site is captivating and that the low water levels also allow for activities such as white water rafting and walking on the lip of the falls.
And Mr. Zulu has noted that the number of people visiting the Victoria Falls slightly increased from January to June this year as compared to the same period last year.
He said about 80000 local and international tourists visited the Falls this year in the first six months while the same period last year recorded 75000 visitors.

Wednesday 10 July 2019

Econet marathon boosts tourism

Leonard Ncube in Victoria Falls
PLAYERS in the tourism sector were the biggest beneficiaries of the Econet Victoria Falls Marathon, which took place here on Sunday.
Hotels and lodges were fully booked starting last week until Monday while eateries and activities also enjoyed more than 100 percent booking as sports tourists from 43 countries who had registered for the event sought services in the country’s prime resort town, the Zimbabwe Tourism Authority (ZTA), reported.
This is besides scores of visitors who thronged the town not for the sporting event but for holiday. Tourism players, who are smiling all the way to the bank on the backdrop of the event, have said the marathon period is an early Christmas for the industry.
The event also significantly contributed to domestic tourism as 2 657 Zimbabweans from across the country took part in the event, with most of them bringing along their families and friends as cheerleaders.
The resort town has been a hive of activity and yesterday scores of people were still doing activities and sampling what the destination has to offer in terms of food, activities and art.
ZTA chief operations officer Mr Givemore Chidzidzi said the marathon event complements Government efforts to champion sports tourism.
“An event of this magnitude helps the country in various ways. It’s an attraction on its own, which shows the power of mega events on tourists. We are trying to promote sports tourism in Zimbabwe and this iconic event in Victoria Falls has grown from stage to stage and now we talk of 43 countries and more than 3 518 runners who brought their supporters and family here,” said Mr Chidzidzi.
He encouraged Zimbabweans from across all economic sectors to support such initiatives so as to play a part in the country’s engagement and re-engagement efforts.
“We all know of the spending that comes along with this and other benefits that accrue to the economy.
The whole town was busy in the last two days, full of visitors and I believe everyone had a share of the economic activity.
“Victoria Falls has been busy of late with occupancies above 100 percent.
The past two weeks also saw the town hosting the Zimbabwe National Chamber of Commerce and the Africa Union-United Nations Wildlife Economy Summit, which brought 100 percent occupancy and business to the town,” added Mr Chidzidzi.
The marathon came at a time when prospects are looking brighter for the tourism sector, which enters its busiest season that ends with the festive holidays.
Tourism executive Mr Clement Mukwasi, who is president of the Employers Association for Tourism and Safari Operators, said the main beneficiaries were accommodation, food, cruise, game drives and helicopter flights.
“The marathon pulled a lot of domestic tourists into town and activities and accommodation benefited from this. As a destination this is a shot in the direction of Christmas as it came at a time when we are starting the busy season.
“The outlook period is quite promising basing on the bookings we got and are still getting,” he said.
Victoria Falls Mayor Councillor Somvelo Dlamini said those who visited the country for the marathon left as Zimbabwe’s ambassadors.
Econet are the sponsors of the marathon, which has grown into an iconic annual event.
Econet chief operations officer Mr Fayaz King said the company will continuously improve on the sponsorship and event to make it bigger and better each year.
“This year we managed to attract 3 518 athletes from 43 countries comprising new and old comers. We are glad that there is no repetition of countries as new countries are coming on board,” he said. — @ncubeleon
Source: Econet marathon boosts tourism (09/07/19)

Saturday 6 July 2019

Construction of US $4bn Batoka hydro power project to begin next year

Zambia and Zimbabwe have announced that construction works of Batoka Gorge hydro power plant which they co-share will commence next year.
According to a statement from Zambezi River Authority (ZRA), feasibility studies are almost complete. Once engaged, the developer is expected to commence works in the last quarter of 2020.

The 2,400MW Batoka Gorge plant has been planned for years by the two countries, both of which are struggling with electricity shortages after a drought curbed hydropower output. The project which was mooted in 1992, experienced delays over colonial era debts and community resistance.
GE and Power China are in a consortium that was shortlisted in February to build the facility. The project involves construction of a dam, powerhouses, roads, transmission infrastructure and houses in both Zambia and Zimbabwe.

Batoka Gorge plant will be constructed and all water bodies situated on the 2 700 kilometre long river at an estimated cost of US $4bn. The river also feeds the world’s largest man-made water reservoir, the Kariba Dam, which powers two hydro schemes on either side of the river and operated by the two neighboring countries.

Each power house of the facility will be installed with six 200MW hydroelectric turbines. The catchment area of the reservoir will be 508,000km², while four intakes will be built to send water to both the power plants through 4km-long tunnels.

A crest type spillway with 12 radial gates will be constructed to ensure controlled release of flow from the reservoir. Measuring 13m-tall and 14m-wide, the spillway’s design discharge capacity will be 20,000m³/s.

Construction works is expected to take six years to complete but electricity generation will start in the third year. The project would be on a Build-Operate-Transfer financing model and would not put any fiscal strain on the two governments. As a result, no sovereign guarantees would be needed.