Footsteps Through Time

Footsteps Through Time
A History of Travel and Tourism to the Victoria Falls -

Wednesday, 3 January 2018

Huge festive pickings for tourism sector

Leonard Ncube in Victoria Falls

HOLIDAY makers who visited Victoria Falls during the festive season enjoyed up to 30 percent discount on a combination of activities, as operators also smiled all the way to the bank due to high subscription of clients.
Arrivals surged last week as thousands thronged the country’s prime resort town for the annual three-day Victoria Falls Carnival which ended in the early hours of Monday. The resort town has been a hive of activity since last week as people criss-crossed to enjoy different kinds of activities such as bungee jumping, gorge swing, tour of the Rainforest and helicopter rides among others.
Employers Association of the Tourist and Safari Operators president, Mr Clement Mukwasi, said this year’s festive season — driven by the carnival — has raised hopes for a brighter 2018.

“The town is full and operators were stretched to maximum capacity for both activities and accommodation. The popular events were the tour of the Rainforest and the Flight of Angels (helicopter flight) while there was also a huge surge in high adrenalin activities such as bridge jumps and gorge swing. The thing is we were stretched to the brim both in human resource and in equipment,” said Mr Mukwasi.

He added: “There were discounts of up to 30 percent for groups and for those booking a combination of activities because we are encouraging numbers. This is a deliberate action to combine activities so that people have a feel of what the destination has to offer than for one to come and only do boat cruise or bungee jumping without sampling other activities.”

A majority of clients, Mr Mukwasi said, were from South Africa, Botswana and Namibia while a significant number were also from other countries across the globe. He said on average, the age group was 35 years, an indication of a high rate of uptake of tourism by the youths.

“If you look at the ages, on average the clients we received are 35-years-old and that’s the future of tourism. We feel this is an indication of what’s going to happen next year and in future hence we expect good fortunes. Mr Mukwasi said while the carnival period is short, operators were buoyed by the confidence shown by visitors to Victoria Falls.

“The indication by most people is that they want to come back again with their families. We had a lot of tourism agents and travel journalists who we hope will be our ambassadors as they expressed pleasure and promised to tell the correct story of our destination,” said Mr Mukwasi.

He noted that during this period, there were no major negative events saying this is good for the organisers especially the way they invested in technology where the payment system was not a challenge as people used plastic money.

“Tourism is a seasonal business and we all know we are going into the dry months of January and February where domestic tourism will be very low while very few international tourists will come through hence we urge operators to wisely use whatever they made during this short period to cater for the first quarter.

“We hope the show of confidence is going to be replicated throughout the year so that companies can regain losses that may have been made during other times,” added Mr Mukwasi.

He urged locals to partner each other to clean the town to retain its pristine environmental cleanliness after the carnival.

Source: Huge festive pickings for tourism sector (03/01/18)

Zimbabwe: Elephant calves captured in Hwange exported to China via Victoria Falls Airport

China has reportedly imported more than 30 wild caught elephant calves from Zimbabwe in a controversial if not cynical move which took place on the very day China banned the sale of ivory.

31 wild elephants recently captured in Hwange National Park in Zimbabwe have been airfreighted abroad, according to Zimbabwean government sources official who has asked to remain anonymous for fear of reprisal. The shipment was confirmed by the Zimbabwean Conservation Task Force.

The elephants are very young, between the ages of 3 and 6. Two of them are particularly fragile: One female calf is struggling to stand and has open sores on her body; she has been weak since she was captured. Another elephant, noticeably small, "is quiet and reserved. When approached by other elephants, she moves away. She is suffering from trauma and is possibly being bullied," the official says.

The elephants were captured from Hwange on August 8 and footage of the operation was secreted to reporters. The Guardian published the explosive video footage, which showed captors repeatedly kicking a five-year old female elephant in the head.

Ethiopian Airlines shipped the animals on Friday, according to photos sent to reporters from Zimbabwe. The animals are presumably in or on their way to China: Zimbabwe has sent at least three known shipments of wild caught elephants to China since 2012. Last year, one of the elephants died during transport.

According to Chunmei Hu, an advocate at the Freedom for the Animal Actors organization, two zoos - Chongqing Safari Park and Daqingshan Safari Park - are awaiting elephants, based on Chinese media reports. 

International trade in live elephants is legal, however it is increasingly being debated at the highest level. 

At a recent CITES meeting in Geneva, representatives from the African Elephant Coalition - a group of 29 African nations that represents 70 percent of the elephants' range - raised serious concerns at the trade. Ali Abagana, speaking for the delegation of Niger, told the conference that their country is "concerned about the plight of African elephants, including juvenile animals, captured and sent to captive facilities outside of the species' range." 
The CITES Secretariat consequently tasked a working  group of nations and NGOs to debate the parameters of the live trade in elephants, which exists against a backdrop of poaching that has seen a third of Africa's elephants wiped out in the past decade.  The working group is being chaired by the United States and includes among others: Ethiopia, Kenya, China, the hunting lobby group, Safari Club International (SCI), animal welfare organizations including Humane Society International (HSI), World Association of Zoos and Aquariums (WAZA) and American Association of Zoos and Aquariums (AZA). . 

While the working group deliberates more concerns been raised about the ethics of capturing wild animals for permanent captivity. 

Peter Stroud, the former curator of the Melbourne Zoo from 1998-2003 who was involved in sourcing elephants from Thailand, calls moving wild caught animals to zoos is "unconscionable." 

"There is now abundant evidence that elephants do not and cannot thrive in zoos," Stroud says. "Young elephants will never develop naturally as socially and ecologically functioning beings in zoos.  They will face a very long and very slow process of mental and physiological breakdown resulting inevitably in chronic physical and mental abnormality, disease and premature death." 

The capture of wild elephants for permanent captivity is illegal in South Africa.

Ed Lanca, Chairman of the Zimbabwean NSPCA, echoes Stroud's views: "There is no sound basis for the removal of wild caught baby elephants to facilities that are ill equipped nor prepared to provide adequate long-term care for these animals. At all times, the welfare of these animals must remain paramount said Lanca. 

Lanca argues that Chinese tourists should instead be encouraged to visit Zimbabwe and "experience these majestic animals in their natural environment. Zimbabwean animals belong to the nation and must be protected.  Wildlife remains our heritage."

The Zimbabwean Conservation Task Force documented the transport on its Facebook page, along with photos of the trucks and crates the elephants were shipped in. At the end of its post, ZCTF wrote, "We would like to thank everyone who tried to assist in stopping this terrible event from taking place but unfortunately, we have failed yet again."

CITES officials in Zimbabwe were asked to comment on the export. At the time of this writing, there was no response.

Source: Elephant calves exported from Zimbabwe as China bans ivory trade (02/01/18)

More from this blog: 35 elephants captured from Hwange on a 'Flight to Hell' (27/12/16)

Sunday, 31 December 2017

Vic Falls Airport passenger traffic up 28pc

The US$150 million facelift of Victoria Falls International Airport, to allow it to handle wide-bodied aircraft, is already paying dividends in the resort town amid indications that passenger traffic has grown by 28 percent between January and October this year compared to the same period in 2016.
Statistics obtained from the Civil Aviation Authority of Zimbabwe (CAAZ) show that from January to October, 284 330 passengers touched down at the Victoria Falls airport compared to 222 967 in the first 10 months last year.
This comes as three international airlines – Ethiopian Airlines, Kenya Airways and South African Airlink – introduced flights into the resort town between March and July this year. Ethiopian Airlines flies into Victoria Falls from Addis Ababa four times a week while Kenyan Airways plies the Nairobi-Victoria Falls-Cape Town route three times a week.
South African Airlink also flies into Victoria Falls from Cape Town six times a week, resulting in huge appetite by air travellers to visit one of the world’s Seven Wonders.
In emailed responses, CAAZ told The Sunday Mail Business that the upgrading of the Victoria Falls International Airport to allow it to accommodate wide-bodied aircraft types and more passenger capacity, has already seen South African Airways upgrading its aircraft equipment from March 1, 2017 to a 222-seater Airbus A330-200. The aircraft replaced the 138-seater A320.
“Consequently, the airport has witnessed a 28 percent growth in passenger traffic from 222 967 during the period January to October 2016 to 284 330 during the same period in 2017,” said CAAZ.
There is stiff competition for tourists between Zimbabwe and Zambia in Victoria Falls. Neighbouring Zambia also commissioned new radar equipment and a new terminal at the Harry Mwaanga Nkumbula (former Livingstone Airport) on December 23 last year, to make the airport more compelling and try to match the improvements at Victoria Falls.
The Harry Mwaanga Nkumbula Airport, which claims to be closest to the Victoria Falls, has capacity to process 700 000 passengers per year while the Victoria Falls Airport now has potential to handle 1,6 million passengers. The refurbishment of the Victoria Falls Airport, funded by China Eximbank, also entailed construction of a new four-kilometre runway.
Chairperson of the Hospitality Association of Zimbabwe (HAZ) Victoria Falls chapter Mr Christopher Svovah told The Sunday Mail Business that the surge in passenger arrivals has translated to a 59 percent rise in hotel occupancy levels from January to November 30,                                                                2017.
“Indeed, passenger arrivals have gone up in 2017 from 2016 mainly due to the new Victoria Falls International Airport that was commissioned in November 2016, which has seen Kenya Airways, Ethiopian Airlines and SA Airlink now landing into Victoria Falls for the first time. And South African Airways managed to put the cherry on the cake by unveiling the Airbus A330, which has a capacity of 222 passengers.
“Then again, in December 2016 the Univisa was launched, which now allows entry or exit of tourists from 65 countries in Group B of the visa regime in both Zimbabwe and Zambia using the visa obtained either side of these two countries.
“All these factors have seen occupancy for the hotels in the destination rising from 48 percent in 2016 to 59 percent in 2017, an 11 percent increase as most of these visitors would need accommodation as they tour the length and breadth of Victoria Falls. We are happy that the issue of destination accessibility and connectivity has finally been addressed,” said Mr Svovah.
In the half year to June 30, 2017, Rainbow Tourism Group (RTG) recorded a 2 percent growth in revenue from $11,4 million in 2016 to $11,6 million in 2017 driven by the performance of its two hotels in Victoria Falls. RTG’s two Victoria Falls hotels – A’Zambezi River Lodge and Victoria Falls Rainbow – posted a 13 percent (US$339 000) growth in revenues compared to the same period in 2016.
“This reflects the huge growth potential the region acquired as a result of increased flight seats in Victoria Falls following the opening of the Victoria Falls International Airport in 2016. Revenues from foreign guests continued on an upward trajectory registering a 9 percent growth to $3,8 million from $3,5 million recorded during the comparable period in 2016,” said RTG chairman Mr John Chikura.
Last year, African Sun Limited projected a 40 percent rise in weekly airline seat arrivals into Victoria Falls, spurred by the commissioning of the new airport.
Airline seat arrivals measure the number of passengers carried by airlines. As a result of the commissioning of the airport, Victoria Falls is now connected to major regional capitals such as Lusaka, Luanda, Windhoek, Gaborone, Pretoria and Maputo. A United States luxury and lifestyle travel magazine, Conde Nast Traveller, named Zimbabwe the best destination for travellers to Africa in 2017.
Concerns over pricingDespite the endorsement of the destination, concerns still linger over the pricing regime of the local tourism product. The use of a strong US dollar as a unit of exchange compared to weaker regional currencies, mainly the Zambian kwacha, is eating into the country’s competitiveness.
Reports suggest Zambia is currently the biggest beneficiary of the boom in tourist arrivals. It is understood that tourists stay in Livingstone, Zambia, and only cross the Zambezi River to have a better view of the Victoria Falls from the Zimbabwean side.
On average, bed and breakfast costs US$200 in three to five-star hotels in Victoria Falls, while the charge is between US$45 and US$180 in Livingstone. Prices of food and beverages are also affordable in Livingstone compared to Victoria Falls (Zimbabwe side). Crucially, during this festive season, most hotels and lodges in Livingstone had massive discounts, something that is alien to local businesspeople.
But Mr Svovah said while they occasionally have promotions to attract more visitors, the cost of doing business in the country is higher than its regional competitors.
“A lot of players normally come up with packages and promotions to lure business but you will appreciate the fact that the rates being charged by the players are necessitated by the high costs along the value chain. The rate so charged is a build-up along the whole production process and reducing these would not make the business viable,” said Mr Svovah.
Victoria Falls has the highest capacity both at the airport and in hotels compared to its regional competition – Kasane and Livingstone. Hotels are fully booked and some enterprising hoteliers had to put up tents at their facilities to accommodate some of the tourists.
In Livingstone, most hotels were are also full.

Friday, 15 December 2017

Vehicle Toll Fees for Victoria Falls Bridge

VICTORIA FALLS, December 15 (The Source) – Vehicles using the Victoria Falls bridge between Zimbabwe and Zambia will have to pay up to $30 in toll fees from next year, as the two countries say they need to raise funds to maintain the facility.

The two neighbours share the 110 year old bridge, whose maintenance is carried out by the National Railways of Zimbabwe (NRZ) and Zambia Railways (ZR).

In a statement, issued on Friday the Emerged Railways Properties, a joint company owned by NRZ and ZR said the toll fees will come into effect from January 1.

“Following the enactment of Statutory Instrument 171 of 2012 in terms of Section 6 of the Toll Roads Act (Chapter 13:13) published in the government gazette dated 2 November 2012, all motorists traversing the Zambia-Zimbabwe border of Victoria Falls are hereby notified the Emerged Railways Properties will commence the collection of Toll Fees for the use of the Victoria Falls Bridge effective 1 January 2017,” the statement reads.

The Road Transport and Safety Agency (RATSA) will collect the fees on behalf of the two governments at the two border posts and entry points to the bridge.

Haulage trucks will pay $30 while buses and mini buses which are mostly used by tour operators on a daily basis will fork out $7 and $5 per entry respectively.

Heavy vehicles will part with $10 while taxis and small vehicles below two tonnes will be exempted, according to the statement.

The bridge, said ERP in the statement, is key to the socio-economic life of both countries as well as the SADC region hence the need for regular maintenance for it to cope with increasing levels of traffic.

“It is against this background that the government of Zambia and Zimbabwe have resolved to put in place the requisite legal instrument for the tolling of the bridge.

The Victoria Falls toll fees will be used specifically for the refurbishment and maintenance of the bridge in order to guarantee its long term existence.”

The bridge was constructed in 1905 by the Cleveland Bridge and Engineering Company and is the gateway to the Sadc region.

Source: Zimbabwe, Zambia introduce toll fees for Victoria Falls Bridge (15/12/17)

Thursday, 14 December 2017

$60m mall planned for Victoria Falls

One of the country’s largest indigenous fuel retailers, Glow Petroleum, has revealed plans to establish a $60 million mall in Victoria Falls with work set to begin in 2019, NewsDay has established.
In an interview with NewsDay on the sidelines of the company’s launch ceremony on Friday, Glow Petroleum managing director Aaron Chinhara said, all was set for the establishment of the mall dubbed, The African Mall, in the resort town.
“The Victoria Falls project is starting end of 2019. We want to believe that maybe by then the economy would have risen from its slumber. That one, we are going to use an average of about $60 million because we are going to construct a mall there,” Chinhara said.
The project is set to create more than 1 500 jobs directly and 500 indirectly.
“We want to make sure that the mall that we are going to construct in Victoria Falls will give a facelift on the CBD of Victoria Falls because if you look at Victoria Falls today, you see an old Victoria Falls yet it is enhancing the magnificent Victoria Falls which is one of the seven wonders of the world,” he said.
“Therefore, we must create a mall which is associated with one of the seven wonders of the world and we want to believe
God-willing we will to do it.”
On Friday, Glow Petroleum officially opened its second service station in Bulawayo valued at $1,5 million.
The outlet is located along Plumtree Road. Speaking at the launch ceremony, Chinhara said there were many investment opportunities in Matabeleland region.
“This country will never be built by borrowing from China or America or from elsewhere. It can be built by Zimbabweans when we do the right things. In Matabeleland we have realised that there are a lot of opportunities,” he said.
He said the banking sector in Zimbabwe was not willing to support them as a company because they considered them “small”.
Glow Petroleum is an indigenous company with branches in Harare, Bulawayo, Kadoma, Hwange, Gwanda Rusape, Chiredzi, and Triangle among others.

Tuesday, 5 December 2017

Victoria Falls: Tide turns against tourism elephant rides

TOUR operators in Victoria Falls are slowly giving in to pressure from international tourism agents to stop elephant ride activities on claim of abuse to wildlife.

International animal activists and agents who bring clients to local tour operators have reportedly set conditions to halt elephant rides or risk losing market benefits for their products and services. Animal activities such as elephant ride and lion walk were given up to end of this month to close, a development whose effects will be felt in the tourism sector judging by the amount of business they contribute to the industry.

Wildlife activists and conservationists say the move is aimed at promoting green tourism. Speaking during an educational elephant interaction for pupils from Townsend High School in Bulawayo and Sacred Heart Primary School in Esigodini at Wild Horizons on Friday, Green Line Africa director, Mrs Veronica Chapman, said the tour operator (Wild Horizons) was the first to stop the activity.

Green Line is an international organisation, which draws membership from tour operators worldwide.

"Wild Horizons is now a member of Green Tourism and has been accredited for its initiative of ending elephant rides.

"International animal activists view elephant ride as cruelty hence they have advocated for what is called "elephant experience" where people get to have a close interaction with elephants without having to ride on them," she said.

Elephant interaction involves feeding the jumbos and patting them without riding on them. The pupils won a quiz competition organised by Sanganai/Hlanganani Tourism Expo this year and were rewarded with a trip to interact with elephants among other activities in Victoria Falls. Wild Horizons runs a schools programme where they host pupils every Friday to teach them about various environmental issues.

Employers' Association for Tourism and Safari Operations Association president, Mr Clement Mukwasi, who is also spokesperson for Shearwater Adventures, said operators were slowly transitioning.

He, however, decried the move saying it will lead to loss of jobs for dozens of people.

"Companies are not abruptly ending the elephant rides but instead they are inducting on programmes that will eventually see the retirement of those animals.

"The animals are creating employment to the people who manage them. What's needed is to ensure that their retirement is done systematically without causing loss of jobs and pain to handlers who will all now be rendered jobless," said Mr Mukwasi

He said some operators were still doing the activity but at a low scale as they are now working on phasing it out. More than 90 percent of tourists who enjoy elephant rides come from international agents.

The activities have stopped in Botswana and South Africa and pressure is now on Zambia and Zimbabwe.

Zambian tour operators who offer elephant rides have advertised to their clients that they would stop on December 31.

Adventure Zone, Elephant Express, Shearwater are some of the companies that offer elephant rides in Victoria Falls while Lion Encounter does lion walks.

Source: Victoria Falls elephant rides stopped (05/12/17)

More: Pressure on Zim to stop activities involving wild animals (16/06/17)
Zambian operator to phase out elephant-back safaris (17/01/17)

Download: Breaking Africa's Elephants - Exposing the rise of cruel tourist rides World Animal Protection Canada [pdf download, external source]

More from this blog: elephant-back safaris : captive-animal interactions

Sunday, 26 November 2017

Elephant killed in Livingstone

Officers from the Department of National Parks and Wildlife have gunned down an elephant after it charged at an electrician who was fixing an electric fence at a named lodge in Livingstone.
National Parks Senior Area Warden, Lewis Daka, says the elephant was gunned down as a control measure to save human lives.
Mr. Daka has however appealed to residents, cross border traders and tourists to take precautions whenever they walk through the Mosi-Oa-Tunya National Park.
He says officers from the Department of National Parks and Wildlife cannot be everywhere at the same time, hence the need for individuals to be alert at all times.
Meanwhile, the number of people killed by elephants in Livingstone, this month, has risen to four after another person was killed near Simoonga area, last week.
Earlier this month, a security guard and two tourists were killed by elephants in the Mosi-Oa-Tunya National Park.