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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)