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Tuesday 14 December 2021

Batoka Zambezi Sands River Lodge To Launch In Zimbabwe In March 2022

 The Batoka Hospitality Group opens revamped five-star destination as part of its vision to boost African tourism and uplift local communities

A new dawn is beckoning at Zimbabwe’s magnificent Victoria Falls. 

In March 2022, the Batoka Hospitality Group will unveil the beautifully-refurbished Batoka Zambezi Sands River Lodge on the banks of the Zambezi River, the first major milestone on the ecotourism group’s journey to empower local communities and boost the African tourism market.

Located in the western part of the Zambezi National Park and only an hour’s drive from the world-famous Victoria Falls, the Batoka Zambezi Sands River Lodge offers guests the chance to luxuriate in the glorious African bush where they can take in the exquisite waters of the mighty Zambezi or marvel at elephant, buffalo, lion, hippo and abundant birdlife.  

Having previously partnered with Imvelo Safari Lodges, in 2020 Batoka Hospitality acquired 100% ownership of the former Zambezi Sands River Camp and its sister attraction, the Gorges Lodge.

The move has paved the way for the company’s spirited executive director, Vimbai Masiyiwa, to execute her vision for creating uniquely-African luxury destinations that are deeply connected to their communities.

As a daughter of Strive Masiyiwa, the Zimbabwean philanthropist and founder of technology giant Econet Global, Masiyiwa is determined to follow in her father’s footsteps by empowering Africans through sustainable projects that will provide partnership and employment opportunities for generations to come. 

She is driven to grow the hospitality sector for Africans, by Africans.

Particularly in light of the economic hardships brought on by the Covid-19 pandemic, Masiyiwa is aiming to rejuvenate the African sector by appealing to African tourists from countries like Kenya, South Africa, Rwanda and Tanzania – all the while improving the lives of the local Zimbabwean community. 

“We put people first – the people in our communities, the people in our teams, and our guests. We choose to learn from each other and consistently look for a better way to do what we do.  We create opportunities for our societies to thrive,” Masiyiwa says. 

The five-star Batoka Zambezi Sands River Lodge that will welcome its first guests in March is the picture of luxury in an African setting.  

The 11 suites have been reconceptualized by contemporary furniture and décor firm The Private House Company, under the astute eye of renowned South African interior designer Yvonne O’Brien.  

Known for creating rooms that are understated, personal and quietly refined, the Private House Company boasts an incredible portfolio, having designed and furnished luxury lodges at Londolozi, Lapalala and Simbithi, as well as high-end homes and residences in Steyn City, Hyde Park, Dainfern and Clifton in South Africa.

The natural materials and tones O’Brien and her team have brought to the Batoka Zambezi Sands River Lodge blend seamlessly into the Victoria Falls landscape, where breathtaking vistas greet guests from every suite.  

The 24-bed lodge comprises 10 standard suites, each with a private plunge pool and spectacular views of the Zambezi River. 

Later in 2022, a two-bedroom suite, complete with private swimming pool, lounge and dining room and deck for those desiring more privacy and opulent “home away from home” experience will be added to the lodge’s offering. 

Rest and relaxation, pampering and health are high on the agenda, and accordingly a spa and fitness centre facilities are included among the amenities on offer.

Ghanaian brand R&R Luxury has also partnered with the group to provide items like toiletries in each of the suites. 

A big part of Batoka Hospitality’s vision is sustainability, not only for local communities, but the environment as well. 

Masiyiwa and her team have gone to great lengths to instill a culture of knowledge and responsibility for the land, and have emphasised the importance of preserving Victoria Falls’ fauna and flora. 

Equally, they have made sure to extol the virtues of local customs and traditions. 

Over and above her role as director, Masiyiwa is a mental health activist who has spent a lot of time seeking to understand human suffering and initiating programmes for people to bring change to their lives. 

It is something that is close to her heart, and these values are reflected in Batoka Hospitality’s offerings.

“Our vision is to become a leading luxury safari company on the African continent, but we also want to create opportunities for economic growth in the communities we build in. We are empowering the African dream of success through ecotourism and hospitality,” she says. 

“As much as we enrich the lives of our guests through a truly authentic African experience, we are building self-sustaining communities across Africa through our brand.”

Later in 2022, Batoka will unveil its second major project of the year, the four-star Batoka Gorges and Little Lodge.

The 30-bed lodge comprises 10 tented suites and five stone chalets overlooking one of Zimbabwe’s most captivating attractions, the Batoka Gorge

This offering, which is targeting the younger adventure traveller, will boast many of the same amenities found at the Batoka Zambezi Sands River Lodge, and once again, be imbued with the African spirit of caring, hospitality and hope.

“For us, it’s all about becoming completely immersed in the local culture,”  Masiyiwa says.

Source: Batoka Zambezi Sands River Lodge To Launch In Zimbabwe In March 2022 (13/12/21)

Monday 13 December 2021

Victoria Falls Special Economic Zone concept under scrutiny

Leonard Ncube, Victoria Falls Reporter

VARIOUS stakeholders from Government and private sector are meeting in Victoria Falls to interrogate the Victoria Falls Special Economic Zone (SEZ) feasibility study as efforts to operationalise the tourism corridor intensify.

Last year Government started crafting a blueprint to guide operationalization of the greater Victoria Falls SEZ and Cabinet approved the Integrated Development Programme/Conceptual Development Framework for the Victoria Falls-Hwange-Binga SEZ whose idea is to integrate economic activities, catapult growth and improve livelihoods in the province.

The SEZ will help create a tourism corridor stretching from Kazungula west of Victoria Falls, to Hwange, Binga, Sijalila and Kariba, including areas around Lake Gwayi-Shangani in Hwange.

Government wants to make Victoria Falls its tourism capital and the Second Republic has deliberately focused its priorities to the resort city and developments especially in the tourism sector, including plans to come up with Masue and Batoka cities are testimony to that.

Government established and appointed Mosi-oa-Tunya Development Company to spearhead tourism infrastructure development in the SEZ, including Masue City, about 10km outside the existing city centre and the company has been conducting a feasibility study with assistance of Old Mutual.

Mosi-oa-Tunya company is under the Environment, Climate, Tourism and Hospitality Industry Ministry, which organized the SEZ feasibility study validation workshop.

In her keynote address, Tourism Minister deputy Minister Barbara Rwodzi said the SEZ is one of the key projects that President Mnangagwa has given priority as it will also unlock potential of tourism towards Vision 2030.

“Government envisions the Victoria Falls SEZ to become a competitive tourism destination and as Ministry we have now to move to mortar and brick stage in 2022,” she said.

Source: Victoria Falls Special Economic Zone concept under scrutiny (13/12/21)

Sunday 12 December 2021

Glow Petroleum Opens A US$1,5m New Fuel Station In Vic Falls

 VICTORIA FALLS: One of the country’s leading fuel dealers, Glow Petroleum has opened a new fuel station in this resort city after investing US$1,5 million into the project.

This becomes Glow Petroleum’s 42nd  branch in Zimbabwe.


Glow owner Aaron Chinhara partnered with Victoria Falls businessman Ozias Marange on the project, which will also see a mall being built to the tune of more than US$3 million.

While the opening of a fuel station might seem to be an ordinary development, the new facility exudes unparalleled quality.

It started with a competitive price of US$1.30 for a litre of petrol, US$0.7 cheaper than other dealers in city.

Just across the road from the site of the garage, are two fuel black market spots that have been booming for more than a year.

However, Chinhara said Victoria Falls will never run short of fuel again.

”We decided to come to this side of the country to join hands with those in the southern region and give each other energy in this business,” Chinhara said.

“This is the first phase and US$1,5 million was put. When the whole project is complete, it will be plus US$3 million and we want to put a one-stop- modern mall here for the people of Mkhosana and Chinotimba suburbs.”

He said as a company, Glow Petroleum valued quality.

Chinhara added the company would construct more fuel stations across the country.

“Glow petroleum is a 100% black-owned company and we have done numerous projects, and today (Wednesday), we have opened branch number 42 as part of our expansion policy.

“We always want to make sure that when we build the next garage, we always try to do better and make sure it is better than our previous one.

“We want to make our communities and country beautiful by creating beautiful facilities. If on any day Victoria Falls had no fuel, that time is over.”

Marange, who also runs a haulage trucking and hardware business, concurred, adding the joint venture would ensure the Victoria Falls community, especially the tourism industry does not run out of fuel.

“We want to make sure every business operates without the challenges of fuel. This will help the local industry as there will be no shortage of fuel,” Marange said.

The fuel station will operate 24 hours and it opened to motorists Wednesday.

Source: Glow Petroleum Opens A US$1,5m New Fuel Station In Vic Falls (11/11/21)

Saturday 11 December 2021

Vic Falls hive of activity with three new hotels

 DANIEL JONES in Victoria Falls, Zimbabwe

VICTORIA FALLS, (CAJ News) – BOUYED by the official opening of a hotel, lodge and guesthouse in Victoria Falls at the peak of the COVID-19, President Emmerson Mnangagwa believes Zimbabwe is on course to meet its target of a US$5 billion tourism industry by 2025.

The tourism capital city has been a hive of activity in recent days as Mnangagwa presided over the launch of the Palm River Hotel, Nkosi Guest Lodge and Zambezi Boutique respectively.

The facilities were built during the grueling lockdown that has been in place since April 2021, much to the detriment of tourism.

“These new investments by the tourism sector demonstrate confidence in the country’s future and will go a long way in accelerating recovery of the sector,” Mnangagwa said.

“The target of a $5 billion tourism industry by 2025 is achievable as evidenced by the tourism investments. These will provide a competitive market driven and diversified product range,” he said.

The president commended the tourism sector for its continued focus towards the realization of the outcomes outlined in the National Development Strategy 1 (2021-2025).

It is part of a strategy to attain Upper Middle-Income Society status by 2030.

Mnangagwa officiated at the groundbreaking ceremony for The Palm River Hotel in July 2020, marking commencement of construction and the hotel that opened its doors on December 1- fully booked.

There were 31 rooms on offer, with the rest in the 73-room facility to take bookings for 2022.

Palm River Lodge, Victoria Falls

Palm River Lodge, Victoria Falls

The Zambezi Boutique, with its high-end luxury suites was constructed under 12 months beginning in November 2020, at a cost of $900 000.

Nkosi Guest Lodge is a $48-million hotel.

Mnangagwa encouraged investors in Victoria Falls to adopt renewable energy and turn the city into a leading green tourism destination.

He also urged players in the tourism sector to develop new products and attract more investments leveraging on the opening up of new resorts in areas around Gwayi-Shangani Dam, Tugwi-Mukosi Dam and the emerging Binga, Bumi Hills and Kanyemba tourism corridor among others.

“We are determined to make sure that our country is an investment destination where capital feels safe,” Mnangagwa assured.

Source: Vic Falls hive of activity with three new hotels (10/12/21)

Wednesday 8 December 2021

Zimparks ropes in private players to boost domestic tourism

Blessings Chidakwa, Herald Reporter

The Zimbabwe Parks and Wildlife Management Authority (Zimparks) has partnered with private players in an effort to promote domestic tourism and also to ensure that locals enjoy previously unaffordable activities.

Zimparks has partnered with a helicopter company MJ Air, luxury coach company City Link Coaches and Rainbow Tourism Group to offer an all-year-round package to Victoria Falls for locals.

The packages is inclusive of transport, accommodation and tours in the tourist city. Zimparks spokesperson Mr Tinashe Farawo confirmed the partnership saying this was part of promoting domestic tourism.

“We hope people will embrace this noble initiative meant to boost our domestic tourism. In order to achieve a $5 billion tourism economy by 2025, the tourism sector plays a critical role.

Mr Farawo also said in this Covid-19 era it is imperative that domestic tourism be boosted.

“We want to ease pressure on job losses in the Covid-19 era. We want money to cater for the animals.

“Through the support of domestic tourism, Vision 2030, as espoused by President Mnangagwa will be attainable,” he said.

Ms Gwemende said in Victoria Falls, they are providing activities at affordable rates and all in an effort to demystify the notion that it is an expensive destination.

“We are going to be running this package for the entire year. We call upon corporates, church groups, schools and clubs to take advantage of this holiday of a lifetime package,” she said.

She said they also have a credit facility with ZB bank to enable locals to enjoy their holidays now and then pay later in installments.

“All this is our quest to afford every Zimbabwean the chance to holiday,” she said.

Source: Zimparks ropes in private players to boost domestic tourism (07/12/21)


Friday 3 December 2021

UK teenager attacked by crocodile on gap-year trip in Zambia


Amelie Osborn-Smith was white water rafting in the Zambezi below Victoria Falls at time of incident.

A British teenager has been reportedly attacked by a crocodile while travelling with friends on a gap-year holiday in southern Africa.

Amelie Osborn-Smith, from Andover, Hampshire, was white water rafting in the Zambezi below Victoria Falls in Zambia when the reptile pounced at her, MailOnline reports.

The 18-year-old’s father said his daughter had been resting her leg over the side of the boat when the crocodile bit her and dragged her under the water.

Osborn-Smith, who was backpacking after finishing her A-levels at school in Winchester, was reportedly saved by a friend who punched the crocodile on the nose until it released her. She has been airlifted to hospital in the capital, Lusaka, about 240 miles (380km) away, where she is being treated for serious injuries to her leg.

Her father, Brent Osborn-Smith, told reporters: “She wasn’t actually swimming but just sitting on the boat and the crocodile saw her leg dangling in the water and thought: ‘There’s lunch.’

“She’s in a pretty bad state at the moment in Zambia and we’re doing our best to try and get her back to have some proper definitive care here, but obviously with a crocodile bite there’s a huge risk of infection and she’s got a very severely damaged leg. It’s quite a distressing situation.

“She’s been stabilised as best they can but it’s still pretty touch and go.”

He said Zambia was on the Covid red list, presenting further challenges in getting his daughter home.

An unnamed friend of Osborn-Smith’s told reporters: “As soon as it happened the male friend dived under the water and started punching the crocodile furiously. Then others jumped in to help. It was chaos. There was blood and people thrashing everywhere. She is lucky to be alive.”

Osborn-Smith was reportedly white water rafting with Bundu Rafting, based in Livingstone in Zambia. The company has been operating in the Victoria Falls area since 1996.

Its website says: “Be assured that we don’t compromise on safety issues on the river. Our trip leaders are the most experienced guides around: some with 20 years rafting on the mighty Zambezi.”

Another rafting company that operates in the area says on its website that the “Nile crocodile is endemic to the Zambezi River” but adds “they are not a problem”.

An adult male is usually between 2.94 metres and 4.4 metres in length and weighs between about 225kg and 414kg, although crocodiles exceeding 6.1 metres in length have been recorded.

In 2018, a woman canoeing above Victoria Falls in Zimbabwe with her fiance had her arm bitten off by a giant crocodile.

Zanele Ndlovu and Jamie Fox, from south-east England, were out in an inflatable raft when the reptile attacked and punctured the vessel.

Ndlovu fell into the water and her right arm was bitten off above the elbow, just days before her wedding.

She was taken to hospital where medics saved her life, and she was married in the hospital chapel the following month.

Source: UK teenager reportedly attacked by crocodile on gap-year trip in Zambia (02/12/21)


Friday 26 November 2021

New US$25m Luxurious Hotel Opens In Vic Falls


VICTORIA FALLS: A new multi-million dollar luxurious hotel, built for US$24.6 million through a partnership by Old Mutual Zimbabwe and Spencer’s Creek was officially opened in this resort city Wednesday.

The Palm River Hotel has 73-rooms comprising a presidential suite, executive and honeymoon suites, 60 deluxe rooms, and standard.

There are also two-roomed beds conducive for people with disabilities.

It is located on the shores of the mighty Zambezi River with all rooms having a river frontage and dwarfed by towering riverside trees.

While the official opening was done Wednesday, doors will open for the first clients on December 1, with 31 rooms already on offer.

The hotel is offering opening specials of US$189 sharable per room per night.

Tourism executives who attended the official opening, which was presided over by Victoria Falls mayor Somvelo Dlamini could not stop marvelling the beautiful structures, comprising six blocks each with three floors, and a villa, which will be used by self-catering clients.

Victoria Falls being a tourism destination thrives on offering quality world-class services hence I believe The Palm River Hotel fits the bill,” Dlamini said.

“With this new establishment, prospects of visitors coming to Victoria Falls to access the facility are strong as the project
cements our ambitions as a preferred destination.”

The mayor added Zimbabwe’s tourism capital was celebrating the completion of the hotel whose construction started in 2019.

It was initially set to be opened by President Emmerson Mnangagwa in July, but that was postponed as the country plunged into another Covid-19 lockdown.

Spencer’s Creek also runs Ilala Lodge, another upmarket hotel in Victoria Falls.

Its managing director Jim Brown said the investment will earn the company in excess of US$6 million per annum.

Old Mutual also has a significant presence in the tourism industry and other sectors of the economy including mining, agriculture, energy, and infrastructure development.

Old Mutual board chairperson Kumbirai Katsande said the hotel offered an opportunity for solid returns.

“The Palm River project offers an opportunity for solid returns and value preservation for our valued clients. This is in addition to the value it offers to create employment and support the growth of the tourism value chain,” he said.

“On behalf of Old Mutual, I would like to express my sincere appreciation to our partners who generously helped this project to come to fruition. We look forward to the great success of this hotel, and our relationship into the future.”

Source: New US$25m Luxurious Hotel Opens In Vic Falls (25/11/21)


Tuesday 23 November 2021

Hope of tourism recovery as Vic Falls hits highest occupancies

 The Victoria Falls Safari Lodge estate last month recorded its highest occupancies since the onset of Covid-19 in March 2020, with operators in Zimbabwe’s top tourist destination optimistic of a recovery following the collapse of the industry.

Occupancy across Africa Albida Tourism (AAT)’s Victoria Falls Safari Lodge, Victoria Falls Safari Club and Victoria Falls Safari Suites’ 98 rooms reached 33% in October, with some other hotels in Victoria Falls also reporting similar occupancies.

This compares to average monthly occupancies across AAT’s three properties being 16% so far in 2021, while bookings for December are at 45% so far, so looking set to exceed the October month average.

AAT chief executive Ross Kennedy said while November has historically been a softer month, December and the festive season were showing good signs of being the busiest month since the start of the pandemic with new enquiries and bookings still coming in daily.

“The forward booking pattern seems positive at this time and from the second quarter of 2022 onwards there appears to be real momentum building,” Kennedy said.

“There are, however, many factors at play across all source markets and the world, so we take nothing for granted in an ever-changing extremely competitive environment.

“We are seeing a trend of many more late bookings, with guests from local, regional and international markets booking, paying and staying within one to three weeks.”

Guests have also been staying longer in the last six months and that trend is also reflecting in bookings, with some international visitors staying or booking for five to seven nights, Kennedy added.

The increase in occupancies comes as 96% of the Victoria Falls Safari Lodge estate staff have been fully vaccinated against Covid-19, as well as 86% of Victoria Falls’ adult population.

In addition, access to Victoria Falls has been boosted with airlines flocking back to the destination. Airlines currently flying into Victoria Falls are budget airline Fastjet, Ethiopian Airlines, Kenya Airways, British Airways (operated by Comair), Airlink, Air Zimbabwe and Mack Air, as well as charter airlines.

The Lufthansa Group’s new leisure airline Eurowings Discover will start flying into Victoria Falls from March 30 next year, increasing Frankfurt to Windhoek flights to a daily service, with a Windhoek-Victoria Falls-Windhoek tag flight three times a week.

Other international airlines to resume flights to Africa include Qantas with Johannesburg-Sydney flights three times a week from January 5, while Delta Airlines has also recommenced flights into Johannesburg from the United States, and British Airways into Cape Town from London.

Source: Hope of tourism recovery as Vic Falls hits highest occupancies (22/11/21)

Monday 22 November 2021

Victoria Falls to set up Masue City, Batoka City

Leonard Ncube , Victoria Falls Reporter
THE Government has made significant infrastructural developments in Victoria Falls despite the Covid-19 pandemic with a number of properties having been built in the past two years in line with the vision to make the tourist destination a conference capital.

Victoria Falls was declared a city in December 2019 becoming the first in the province and in Matabeleland region after Bulawayo metropolitan. President Mnangagwa conferred the status to the city.

Government wants to make Victoria Falls its conference capital and has since approved the Conceptual Development Framework for the Victoria Falls-Hwange-Binga Special Economic Zone (SEZ).

There are plans to come up with Masue City on the outskirts of the Victoria Falls City and Batoka City on the Zambezi gorges, which buttresses the combined development of Matabeleland North as a key component for transforming Zimbabwe into an upper middle-income economy.

The new developments will come with state-of-the-art facilities ranging from five to seven-star hotels, recreational, banking and sporting facilities and Government is courting investors. The Victoria Falls Stock Exchange was also opened last year to attract foreign direct investment and business into the city.

In an interview yesterday, Victoria Falls Mayor Councillor Somveli Dlamini said there was an investment appetite in the country’s tourism destination.

“Despite the Covid-19 pandemic, Victoria Falls has grown rapidly in terms of infrastructure development such as new businesses, hotels and lodges.

We have got quite a number of them such as The Palm River Hotel which is due for opening next week, Victoria Falls Pioneers Lodge which has been completed and waiting for opening, residential flats for bookings, town houses being built behind Far School, Mbano Manor Hotel which opened last year and other lodges as well as two new indigenous garages.

“All these developments came through during Covid-19 lockdown period and this shows that investors are seriously looking into investing in Victoria Falls,” said Clr Dlamini.

He said the city has run out of land for expansion and was pinning hopes on Government unlocking the land bank in Masue Estate, just outside the city. Clr Dlamini said shortage of land has seen the city’s housing waiting list ballooning to more than 15 000.

Victoria Falls is bordered by Zambezi River, national parks and forest land, and communal land. The city’s Master Plan is now outdated and the mayor said alternative policies were being pursued.

“We have a challenge. Our Master Plan was done way back and now outdated, and while we are waiting for it as it might take long because it requires a lot of funding, we are currently working on coming up with a local development plan.

We will be having it in the next few months and we believe land will be availed to cater for our housing waiting list which is hovering around between 15 000 and 20 000,” he said.

Speaking during the 2022 pre-budget seminar in Victoria Falls recently, Speaker of Parliament Advocate Jacob Mudenda implored Government to speed up development of the Victoria Falls Master Plan so as to create an appetite for investment in the country’s tourism capital.

Meanwhile, Clr Dlamini during the week met the Zimpapers board and top management on the sidelines of the country’s biggest media organisation’s strategic planning meeting in the resort city. Clr Dlamini said there was appetite by the two organisations to partner each other, which was key to development.

“Zimpapers plays a very crucial role in marketing Victoria Falls and we appreciate its interest in investing and partnering council in marketing Victoria Falls destination and these facilities. We feel marketing and advertising is key in making sure these facilities are exploited,” he said.

Locals have also called upon Government to allow the city to retain a percentage of earnings from the Rainforest for development purposes.

Source:  Victoria Falls to set up Masue City, Batoka City (21/11/21)

Wednesday 17 November 2021

Latest 5-star hotel to change face of Vic Falls

 DANIEL JONES in Victoria Falls, Zimbabwe

VICTORIA FALLS, (CAJ News) – ZIMBABWE is to add another five star hotel to its catalogue as part of US$3 million investment to create a one-stop shopping mall in Victoria Falls.

Entrepreneur Aaron Chinhara, through his House of Chinhara establishment, is planning the facility for the tourism capital city, Victoria Falls.

Construction is set to start in 2022.

Chinhara has made a name for himself in the fuel industry.

The facility is to change the face of Victoria Falls, according to the proprietors, Glow Petroleum.

House of Chinhara is Glow’s sister company.

“As an operator we want to make the country beautiful by creating beautiful things,” Chinhara said.

“Through our House of Chinhara, a tourism entity that we have created, two projects will start next year in Victoria Falls. I want to think these projects are going to change the face of Victoria Falls because its huge investments.”

He said the Victoria Falls community must “keep its eyes open for another spectacular or two projects, which are on spectacular standards.”

“They are coming to Victoria Falls in 2022 up to 2023. Surely we are not going to build hotels that are already in Victoria Falls, we must build hotels that are not here,” said Chinhara.

Victoria Falls is Zimbabwe’s tourism capital and the gateway into the country.

However, shortage of hotel rooms has been a cause for concern.

The city has a deficit of more than 2 500 rooms, according to the Zimbabwe Tourism Authority (ZTA).

There are also qualms about some of the facilities which do not meet world standards.

Government plans to make Victoria Falls its conference capital and is courting investors to build a convention centre with state-of-the-art facilities comprising five-star hotels, medical facilities, a theme park and motor race course.

The Victoria Falls City Council is also luring investors to build a US$250 million Civic Centre which it says will be in the model of the iconic Mandela Square in Johannesburg, South Africa.

This will include council offices, a hall for meetings and functions, a 5-star hotel, a shopping mall with restaurants and a theme park or city square.

Jacob Mudenda, the Speaker of Parliament, recently implored the government to speed up implementation of the Victoria Falls Integrated Master Plan so as to lure investors into the tourism destination.

Before the debilitating outbreak of the COVID-19, contribution of travel and tourism to Zimbabwe’s gross domestic product (GDP) was 6,5 percent.

Source: Latest 5-star hotel to change face of Vic Falls (16/11/21)

Thursday 28 October 2021

‘Speed up development of Vic Falls masterplan’

GOVERNMENT should speed up the development of the Victoria Falls Master Plan to create an appetite for investment in the country’s tourism capital.

The town is earmarked for national conferencing status after the Government approved the Conceptual Development Framework for the Victoria Falls-Hwange-Binga Special Economic Zone (SEZ).

There are also plans to come up with Masue City on the outskirts of the Victoria Falls City and Batoka City on the Zambezi gorges, which buttresses the combined development of Matabeleland North as a key component for transforming Zimbabwe into an upper middle-income economy by 2030.

The new developments will come with state-of-the-art facilities ranging from five to seven-star hotels, recreational, banking and sporting facilities.

The Victoria Falls Stock Exchange was opened last year to attract foreign direct investment to the city.

Speaking during the 2022 pre-budget seminar in Victoria Falls last week, Speaker of Parliament, Advocate Jacob Mudenda implored Local Government and Public Works Minister July Moyo and his National Housing and Social Amenities counterpart, Daniel Garwe to speed up the development of the Victoria Falls masterplan to make the resort city attractive to investors.

The two ministers had earlier presented papers on priority areas going into the 2022 financial year.

“The Victoria Falls Masterplan has stagnated. The establishment of an offshore financial sector in Victoria Falls will attract so many people once tourism starts picking,” said Adv Mudenda.

He said the resort city had a shortfall of 2 500 hotel beds and investors can only invest in new hotels once the masterplan is out.

“Can we have the masterplan completed as soon as possible so that new investors can come in,” said Adv Mudenda.

He said the development of the Victoria Falls-Manjolo-Binga-Kanyemba tourism corridor, for instance, will spur massive growth.

“There should be massive development and some of you will have to play critical role in this economic corridor. You have done special plans, let’s see action on the ground,” said Adv Mudenda.

Hwange West Legislator Mr Godfrey Dube urged the Treasury to set aside funds in the 2022 budget for the specific Victoria Falls project. He said the integrated plan should be sensitive to wildlife and the environment so as to manage human-wildlife conflict.

“The Victoria Falls Integrated Masterplan is of great importance and we have spoken about it since 2018. It will improve the face of Victoria Falls including Kazungula, which will be incorporated leading to growth of another town,” he said.

“This will also bring in investors especially on accommodation and we anticipate that the tourism industry will rise again in the near future.

“We want the Masterplan to be mindful of the fact that Victoria Falls has to maintain its natural being with controlled human developments,” said Mr Dube.

He implored the Government to seek partnerships with the private sector on these developments, adding that the Victoria Falls City Council, if allowed to retain a percentage of earnings from the Rainforest, can also spearhead development. 

Source: ‘Speed up development of Vic Falls masterplan’ (27/10/21)

Wednesday 22 September 2021

Victoria Falls Bridge renovations scheduled to be undertaken

The Victoria Falls Bridge renovations scheduled to be undertaken soon following a deal between the National Railways of Zimbabwe (NRZ) and a Turkish railway contractor.

Turkish railway construction business Warpi Merkezy, which has operations throughout Africa, is conducting a needs assessment to establish a finance mechanism for NRZ infrastructure maintenance. The Victoria Falls Bridge that links Zambia and Zimbabwe is one of these pieces of infrastructure.

Ali Salih Uslu, Business Development Manager at Warpi Merkezy, claimed that they were looking into more simple and technical ways to reduce the cost of NRZ requirements on railway lines.

This is based on a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) signed in November following many meetings.

Officials from the company have been in Zimbabwe to evaluate NRZ’s substantial investment in rehabilitating railway lines from Mutare to Bulawayo and Victoria Falls.

“We will assess to reduce costs for the country, but for now, we have no figures,” Uslu said. “We need additional study and have a projects manager in Zambia. Hence we will combine findings to see what needs rehabilitation, even across the bridge. We will know soon, and we will do our best and come back,” Uslu further stated.

With increasing traffic loads over the years, there are concerns regarding the 198-meter-long, 128-meter-high bridge’s safety.

The bridge was constructed in 1904 and completed in 1905 as part of Cecil John Rhodes’ Cape to Cairo railway scheme.

The Cleveland Bridge and Engineering Company of England built the Victoria Falls Bridge for £70,000.

Apart from repainting NRZ and Zambia Railways co-owners, no significant repairs have been made to the bridge.

Martin Dinha, the chairman of the NRZ board, claimed that the company’s equipment and fleet were worn out, obsolete, and vandalised in general.

Warpi Merkezy is returning for a second technical visit to assess how they can fit in and prepare a financial plan for railway line rehabilitation and modernisation, among other things.

Dinha remarked in a Victoria Falls interview that he believes the Victoria Falls Bridge renovations project would gain value and will be able to assist NRZ in modernising.

The Victoria Falls Bridge is located in a no-land man’s between Zimbabwe and Zambia.

Source:  Victoria Falls Bridge renovations scheduled to be undertaken (21/09/21)

Wednesday 8 September 2021

Businesses in Zimbabwe’s Victoria Falls anxious for tourists’ return

 Zimbabwe’s Victoria Falls are in full flow this year. The mist from the water hitting the river more than 100 yards below is visible for miles. But the crowds are missing.

“COVID has taken a big hit here; we are basically on life support,” said Gail van Jaarsvelt, who owns retail businesses in the area.

More than 300,000 foreign tourists visited the Zimbabwean site in 2019. A mere 34,000 visited in 2020, threatening the survival of Victoria Falls, a town almost entirely dependent on tourist revenue.

To highlight the importance of tourism, the government offered free COVID-19 vaccination to every adult resident of Victoria Falls in March. Zimbabwe’s President Emmerson Mnangagwa made a point of getting vaccinated here, an event that was broadcast live on national TV.

By August, the ministry of health’s Dr. Munekayi Padingani said 72% of the town’s adults were fully vaccinated. As a result, he said, Victoria Falls was spared the deadly delta variant-driven third wave that other parts of the country are experiencing.

“We can say that our vaccination campaign was successful. The number of cases have gone down, and most of our cases are people who are not vaccinated,” he said.

Some airlines that had stopped flying into Victoria Falls earlier in the pandemic have resumed their flights. Farai Chimba, a hotel manager in the town, is also the vice chairperson of the Hospitality Association of Zimbabwe. He said this should boost arrivals.

“We anticipate that as these flights continue to come in and increase the frequency, we’ll also see a corresponding increase in the number of passengers traveling into the destination,” Chimba said. 

But foreign tourists have to deal with travel restrictions in their own countries. So there’s a new focus on domestic tourism to keep Victoria Falls afloat in the short term. Still, van Jaarsveldt said, business owners need to do more to encourage more locals to visit.

“We dropped the ball with that long back,” she said. “We didn’t rate the local market, we wanted the more well-heeled travelers.”

The pandemic has indeed forced Zimbabwe’s tourism sector to take domestic tourism seriously. Chimba said some hotels are offering locals discount packages of as much as 70%. The government has targeted multi-media advertising campaigns and scrapped a consumption tax on tourism products and services for locals at tourist destinations. 

Source: Businesses in Zimbabwe’s Victoria Falls anxious for tourists’ return (07/09/21)

Tuesday 17 August 2021

Enviro Watch in drive to reduce firewood consumption

Leonard Ncube, Victoria Falls Reporter

A LOCAL community organisation has launched an environment conservation project where it is distributing less firewood consuming stoves to households.

Vic Falls Enviro Watch’s motive is to reduce cutting down of trees for firewood and use of open fire in the household. It gave 15 rocket stoves to Siyazama Women’s Group in Victoria Falls as a pilot project which will be rolled out to the whole city if successful.

This comes in the wake of a suspension of issuing of permits to sell firewood and the national blitz against illegal firewood and charcoal dealers by the Forestry Commission.

There have been concerns about massive cutting down of trees in and around Victoria Falls by residents for firewood.

A majority of them come from some parts of Mkhosana, Chinotimba, Aerodrome and CBZ stands that have no electricity.

Fifteen women who are members of Siyazama Women’s Group were given rocket stoves on Saturday as a pilot project.

A rocket stove is made of a four-dimensional hollow pipe with three openings, one being an inlet for firewood, the other is a fire outlet on which the plate is mounted, and a breather at the bottom.

The stove uses twigs and chips from wood hence consumes three times less firewood than an open fire.

Vic Falls Enviro Watch made the stoves which are being given free of charge as a pilot project.

The organisation’s chairperson Mr Tony Peel said their motive is to reduce cutting down of trees and use of open fire at home.

“We are concerned about unsustainable developments in Victoria Falls and so we decided to come up with these rocket stoves which are generally three times effective than open fire and use limited energy but with high output.

This is a pilot project which we will be monitoring and once it’s effective we will roll it out to the whole town,” said Mr Peel.

He said the concept will be spread countrywide if it proves to be a success with the aim of reducing deforestation across the country.

Vic Falls Enviro Watch has also erected wildlife related road signs along the Victoria Falls-Kazungula road to prevent accidents caused by wildlife.Victoria Falls ward 11 councillor Edmore Zhou who helped in the formation of Siyazama Women’s Group said members will be assisted in getting firewood from the Forestry Commission.

‘We are negotiating with Forestry Commission so that club members can have access to firewood. The beauty about this stove is that it uses very little firewood meaning you won’t have to endanger your lives going into the wildlife infested bush. The council will soon be raiding firewood dealers and you will be safe,” he said.

Siyazama chairperson Mrs Ketani Phiri said: “Most of us have been arrested and encountered wild animals in the bush. We fetch firewood all year round except for the rainy season when the bush will be thick. So, we sat down and thought of having something sustainable hence we came up with the idea of this club. We want to try this stove and we hope it will work well so we don’t frequent the bush.”

Most houses in Victoria Falls have heaps of firewood which they poach from the surrounding bush. — @ncubeleon

Source: Enviro Watch in drive to reduce firewood consumption (16/08/21)

Monday 16 August 2021

Refurbishment works on Victoria Falls Hotel in Zimbabwe to begin

 Refurbishment works on Victoria Falls Hotel in Zimbabwe is set to begin. Acting general manager of the hotel, Mr Farai Chimba made the announcement and said that works will start in January 2020 and set for completion by early 2021.

For only the fifth time in its 115-year history The Victoria Falls Hotel is to undergo a major refashioning and refurbishment programme, starting January 2020 and set for completion by early 2021.

Details of the revamp works

According to Mr Farai the refurbishment is aimed at the creation of a stylish marriage of the hotel’s unique historic heritage and introduction of the most modern amenities and facilities expected by top-end travelers of the 21st century.

“The revamp works upon completion will enhance the Victoria Falls Hotel’s reputation as one of Africa’s most significant travel and tourism assets and break exciting new ground in the Zimbabwean hospitality industry,” said the Acting Manager.

The project will focus more on public areas, as well as the bedrooms and suites, apart from those in The Stables Wing. This will be experienced through furniture, décor, ornaments, features and facilities, with an emphasis on light, bright, cool and comforting, paying genuine homage to a proud history.

Key features of the exercise will be increasing inflow of light, granting greater access to views of the hotel grounds, creating walk-in showers in bathrooms, as well as upgrading lighting, air conditioning and electrical features such as points for using and charging devices in all bedrooms and suites.

“Work will be carried out in low-season periods between January 2020 and May 2020 and between January 2021 and May 2021, removing any need to close the hotel for this substantial elevation of physical infrastructure and visual elements, and eliminating any impact on guests staying in the hotel,” said Mr Farai.

Victoria Falls Hotel

The Victoria Falls Hotel was opened in 1904, at the time of the arrival of the northbound railway development that stemmed from a vision to create a Cape-to-Cairo rail system, and just ahead of the opening of the famous road and rail bridge that crosses the gorge below the falls to link Zimbabwe with Zambia. This will be only the fifth time in its 115-year history to undergo revamp works.

Upon completion, the current 61 Classic bedrooms will average 25 square metres and offer dedicated entrance foyer, king-sized bed or convertible twin beds, with lounge setting, bathroom with large walk-in shower, full wardrobe with luggage storage, generous refreshment station and luxurious mosquito net enclosure.

The 25 brand new Premium bedrooms will average 43 square metres with dedicated entrance foyer, separate TV lounge, generous refreshment station, king-sized bed or convertible twin beds, with luxurious mosquito enclosure, walk-through dressing area with large wardrobe and luggage storage, bathroom featuring large walk-in shower.

The 11 suites will each average 72 square metres, with dedicated entrance foyer, separate living room including TV lounge, dining area, generous minibar, separate guest WC, luxury king-sized bed or convertible twin beds, with generous mosquito enclosure and in-room lounge area, writing desk and coffee station, walk-through dressing area with large wardrobe and luggage storage, bathroom featuring large walk-in shower and free-standing bath and double vanity feature.

The existing Presidential Suite features with two bedrooms with king-sized bed or convertible twin beds, large living area with separate lounges and dining room, generous bathroom with double walk-in shower. The 42 existing Stables Wing bedrooms and suites remain unchanged.

Source: Refurbishment works on Victoria Falls Hotel in Zimbabwe to begin (15/08/21)


Monday 2 August 2021

Confusion over Victoria Falls SEZ status

 PLAYERS in the tourism sector in Victoria Falls have called upon relevant authorities to speed up the operationalisation of the Special Economic Zone status of the city as it will be a key enabler to the recovery and growth of the tourism sector.

Tax rebates on different facets that include corporate tax, employee tax as well as customs duty on capital equipment and raw materials have been identified as a key enabler in the recovery and growth of the industry as they are part of the policies and regulations that operate within a SEZ.

The local authority is saying the city was gazetted as a SEZ in 2017 but the Zimbabwe Investment and Development Agency has reiterated that such a status has still not yet been approved. ZIDA public relations manager Ms Constance Makoni told Sunday Business that Victoria Falls was not yet a SEZ with relevant statutory approvals under the Ministry of Local Government and Public Works yet to be made.

“The City of Victoria Falls has not yet been gazetted as an SEZ — it has been designated as space that will be gazetted, but this is still work in progress that requires the relevant statutory approvals under the Ministry of Local Government and Public Works. There are still some running preparatory works being undertaken by the city with regards to spatial planning that will determine the extent of the city space and the gazetting is likely to be finalised after all these preparatory works have been completed,” she said.

However, Victoria Falls Mayor Councillor Somvelo Dhlamini said Victoria Falls already has a SEZ status which it was accorded in 2017.

“Victoria Falls was accorded a Special Economic Zone status in 2017 with two areas of speciality: finance and tourism. That being the case, the SEZ status complements the promotion of Victoria Falls as a preferred tourism investment destination. Victoria Falls had applied for the extension of its boundaries in 2012.

However, an inter-ministerial consultation recommended that there is no need to expand the City to curb over-development in areas close to the World Heritage Site. As a result, Central Government established the Masue integrated resort and Ndlovu satellite town to decongest Victoria Falls,” said Clr Dhlamini
Local tour operator Mr Clement Mukwasi called for the relevant authorities to clarify the status of the city to ensure that there is smooth recovery of the city.

“It actually encompasses quite a lot of benefits that come with the designation of that SEZ. Corporate tax at the moment ranges between 24 percent and 72 percent for the companies operating outside SEZ but if a place becomes a SEZ, the corporate tax is zero rated. This means for the first five years from the time the place is designated as a SEZ you actually do not pay tax which is a serious enabler to investment,” he said.

Mr Mukwasi said if corporate tax is zero rated for the tourism industry specifically, there will be quick recovery.
“At the moment employees both locals and expatriates are taxed using different bands from the lowest up to about 40 percent depending on the salary one gets but if one is now in a SEZ, specialised expatriated staff will now be taxed at a rate of about 15 percent which is actually key again in the attraction of best brands best service providers in the industry.”

He also said due to low business as a result of Covid-19, some equipment and resources used in different tourism activities was being dilapidated hence the need for rebates in customs duty for capital equipment and raw material.

“Things like helicopters as an example do not wear out only because of use, they also wear out because of being inactive but when you want to buy parts or import a new helicopter into the country you have to pay duty for such importation. However, if the place becomes a SEZ, the capital goods will have 100 percent rebate.

This is also a key enabler to the tourism industry because remember the tourism industry operates on an international turf in that the services that we give in Victoria Falls must be similar or better than the services given in Cape Town, New York, Amsterdam or any other tourism destination,” he said.

Ms Makoni also weighed in saying the gazetting of the City as a SEZ will focus on the development of products and activities that drive or are driven by tourism.

“The designation of the spaces as Special Economic Zone will help different sectors of the economy in many ways. However, as the Victoria Falls is a major tourism resort it is expected that any activities within the SEZ will be driven by activities that play a part in the tourism value chain,” she said.

Source: Confusion over Victoria Falls SEZ status (01/08/21)