Footsteps Through Time

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

Tuesday, 17 January 2017

Zambian operator to phase out elephant-back safaris

Safari Par Excellence and Zambezi Elephant Trails have decided to phase out elephant-back safaris. It is anticipated that by the end of December 2017, Zambezi Elephant Trails will no longer offer the safaris.

Safari Par Excellence will aim to end elephant rides by December 2017.

“Our approach to animal welfare as well as the decline in support of elephant-back safaris has confirmed that we are on the right track,” said Graham Nel, Managing Director, Safari Par Excellence.

Starting this month, the number of rides on offer will be reduced, with the focus being on the morning rides. Mid-morning and afternoon rides will only be conducted by special arrangement.

“We shall actively encourage clients to interact with the elephants rather than ride them,” said Nel. Elephant rides will be replaced by a boat ride up the Zambezi River, or road transfer, followed by an introduction to the animals with a short interaction and a meal at The Elephant Café.

Incentive groups are also encouraged to spend time to learn about and from the habits and characteristics of the elephants. 

Nel said the elephants’ well-being had always been at the forefront of operations within the Mosi-Oa-Tunya National Park in Zambia.

Source: Another operator to phase out elephant rides (16/01/17)

Further Reading:  Captive Animal encounters: are they ethical? 

More from this blog: elephant-back safaris 

Saturday, 7 January 2017

Rich pickings for Vic-Falls businesses at carnival

Leonard Ncube in Victoria Falls

TOUR operators in Victoria Falls recorded brisk business during the recent annual Jameson Vic Falls Carnival.

The three-day event started on Thursday last week and ended New Year’s Eve with scores booking for activities during the period.

Different activities were fully booked for the three days and those who did not make prior arrangements failed to book.

Despite a generally subdued festive season owing to the weakening South African rand and lack of disposable income among locals, fortunes changed on Wednesday last week as thousands of travellers started arriving for the carnival.

Streets were fully packed with people and traffic while scores visited the Rainforest, Victoria Falls Bridge and other resort points dotted around.

Employers’ Association of Tourism and Safari Operators president Mr Clement Mukwasi said the biggest winner was the food industry as restaurants and eateries were all fully subscribed.

“The main area of benefit was the food area where all restaurants were filled to the brim,” said Mr Mukwasi.

He said besides the food industry, boat cruises were also 100 percent booked for the period.

“The second activity to reap high were cruises as almost every company was fully booked. Most had double trips which were all 100 percent full for the three days, which means that those who hadn’t made prior bookings couldn’t do any,” he added.

Mr Mukwasi said the carnival brought significant benefits for the tourism industry, adding that “these were very good three days of the year as capacities reached maximum.”

He said helicopter flights, which were also fully booked were affected by the weather as it was raining.

Scores others visited the Rainforest, Victoria Falls Bridge, The Snake Pit and Crocodile Farm among other activities.

Although she could not give figures, The Snake Pit manager Mrs Rina Greenland said they recorded a significant number of visitors.

“We usually have people coming to see and today people from the carnival have been coming since morning,” she said on Saturday.

Ms Sizile Nkosi from South Africa said: “I am usually scared of snakes but when I heard there is a snake pit I just thought I should pop in with my friends. It’s amazing.”

Newly introduced Zambezi Tram was also a hit as visitors booked for a tour of the Victoria Falls Bridge and Rainforest by rail.

However, Hospitality Association of Zimbabwe (HAZ) Victoria Falls chapter chairman Mr Chris Svovah said the occupancy rate had declined compared to 2015.

He attributed the decline to the fact that some locals have turned their houses into mini-lodges hence they take a significant number of people who could be booked in mainstream hotels and lodges.
Mr Svovah said the carnival had brought significant business as he commended the organisers for the annual event.

“From our assessment the occupancy rate has gone down in Victoria Falls despite a high number of people that attended the carnival. We would want to thank the carnival organisers for the event, which we know was a success and we believe will grow bigger going forward as it has put Victoria Falls on the world map,” he said.

HAZ reported a nationwide 80 percent hotel occupancy rate during the festive season, with Victoria Falls standing at 85 percent.

Source: Rich pickings for Vic-Falls businesses at carnival (06/01/17)

More: Vic Falls Carnival: When nature’s splendour meets hard partying (07/01/17)

Airport upgrade a boon for Vic Falls

THE upgrading of the $150 million Victoria Falls International Airport has stimulated a huge appetite for investment from local and international private sector players who want to set up businesses in the resort town, industry officials have revealed.
The new-look airport which is a gateway to the mighty Victoria Falls — one of the Seven Wonders of the World — was officially commissioned by President Robert Mugabe last year in November.
Following the upgrading of the entity, the resort town of Victoria Falls has experienced positive growth in terms of infrastructural development as well as attracting a huge appetite for investment from local and international players.
Industry players and municipal authorities told Standardbusiness good things had started showing up in the town.
“In the food industry, we have KFC which has become a popular restaurant in town. We also have Three-Monkeys Restaurant catering for both local and international tourists,” said an industry official, Clement Mukwasi, who is also Employers’ Association of Tourism and Safari Operators president.
“We have a number of snake parks that have been opened. We had not been having this kind of business in Victoria Falls.”
Mukwasi said companies such as Shearwater Adventures had invested thousands of dollars in accommodation facilities to meet the overwhelming demand.
The group constructed a facility christened Explorer’s Village which has the capacity to accommodate 120 people. The facility has 16 chalets as well as a 200 seater restaurant.
Lodges such as Ilala and Batonga also expanded their capacity, Mukwasi said.
“The [tourist] destination is growing and we have received quite a number of enquiries from people wishing to invest in the resort town. Currently, there are two companies, one from here and the other from South Africa, wishing to establish helicopter businesses in Victoria Falls,” he said.
“These are some of the developments that occurred during the course of the year following the commissioning of the Victoria Falls International Airport.”
Mukwasi also said the United Nations World Tourism Organisation was sponsoring the development of a public swimming pool.
“Construction has started and we believe by end of January it will be completed. The structure [Victoria Falls Airport]added value to the city in terms of infrastructural development and employment creation. It has also increased attractiveness of Victoria Falls as a tourist destination,” he said.
Victoria Falls mayor Sifiso Mpofu said the airport was a game-changer and they had received quite a number of enquiries from people wishing to establish businesses in the resort town.
“The airport is a game-changer, though we haven’t seen much development. We have received many enquiries about investment opportunities from companies and business people,” Mpofu said. 
The completion of the project was a major milestone for the country given the resort town’s potential to transform and steer growth in the country’s economy by attracting more tourists and investors into the country.
The airport is capable of handling around 1,5 million passengers annually and its smooth new runway can accommodate some of the world’s largest jets — raising the prospect of new direct international flights to Victoria Falls.
Africa’s largest airline group, Ethiopian Airlines recently revealed that it would start flying into Victoria Falls in March. Rwandan airline, RwandAir has also indicated plans to start flying into Victoria Falls this year.
The state-of-the-art Victoria Falls airport’s features include the new international terminal building, a new four-kilometre long runway, a new control tower and a refurbished domestic terminal with a capacity to handle 1,5 million passengers per annum.
The apron area has a capacity to handle aircraft in the class of the B747 and equivalent. The airport has modern passenger facilities which include a compatible baggage handling system, Flight Information Display System and Common Use Passenger Processing System.
The expansion of the airport comes as government has designated Victoria Falls a special economic zone for tourism, which means that investors will get incentives to put their money in the resort town. It also comes at a time when Tourism and Hospitality Industry minister Walter Mzembi has plans for a $300 million “Disneyland” in Zimbabwe.

Wednesday, 4 January 2017

Zambia fails again to attract the 1 million tourist target

Zambia again failed to meet its annual target of attracting 1 million tourist arrivals in 2015. This is according to figures contained in the 2015 Tourism Statistical Digest released by the United Nations World Tourism Organisations (UNWTO).

Zambia recorded a total of 931,782 international tourist arrivals in 2015 compared to 946,969 tourists in 2014 resulting in a decline of 1.6 percent.

Out of the 53.3 million international tourists’ arrivals to Africa, Zambia received only 1.7 percent of the total tourists’ arrivals in Africa.

Business tourists dominated the arrivals contributing 54 percent while holiday and leisure travelers were second at 25 percent. There was a marked reduction decline for leisure and holiday tourism from 249,501 in 2014 to 235,235 in 2015 representing a decrease of 5.7 percent.

Business tourist arrivals also reduced from 506,054 tourists in 2014 to 499,584 in 2015 which translated to 1.3 percent decline. However, there was an increase in conference arrivals from 21,013 in 2014 to 22,902 in 2015 representing an increase of 9 percent. The total number of tourist visits to the five national parks inclusive of Lusaka Park was 101, 972.

South Luangwa National Park had the highest number of tourists at 43, 653 while Lower Zambezi National Park recorded the least tourists at 9,011.

The Victoria Falls, which is one of the Seven Wonders of the World and Zambia’s flagship tourism product, recorded 141,929 tourists compared to 152,798 tourists in 2014, representing a drop of 7.7 percent.

During the year under review, the total number of rooms available was 43,119 as compared to 42,932 in 2014, representing an increase of 0.4 percent.

The 2015 national annual average room occupancy rate increased from 61.9 percent in 2014 to 69.8 percent in 2015 while the national annual average bed occupancy rate during the year under review was 71.4 percent compared 72.2 percent in 2014.

The increase in room occupancy rate could be attributed to increase in domestic tourism activities and Meeting Incentives Conferencing and Exhibitions (MICE).

The average length of stay reduced to four days in 2015 as compared to five and half days in 2014. The number of people employed in the hospitality industry during the year under review was 57,384 compared 57,003 in 2014 recording an increase of 0.7 percent.

Southern Province recorded a high number of employees accounting for 22,872 employees in the hospitality industry while Northern Province had the least record of employees at 836.

The annual tourism earnings increased from K3, 945,710,713.08 in 2014 to K4, 408, 160,075.42 in 2015 representing an increase of 11.38 percent.

However, the annual tourism earning, when converted to the United States Dollars dropped by 34.9% from US$616 million in 2014 to US$ 401 million in 2015.

Source: Zambia fails again to attract the 1 million tourist target (03/01/17)

Saturday, 31 December 2016

Tourists spend $800m in a year

The total spending by visitors to Zimbabwe was over $800 million in the period July 2015 to June 2016, with the bulk of them coming to visit friends and relatives, a new report has shown.
Tourists take a safari drive in Hwange National Park.
Tourists take a safari drive in Hwange National Park.
Each visitor was spending an average of $385 per stay and 2 106 975 people visited the country during the period, according to the Zimbabwe Visitor Exit Survey (VES) Report 2015/16.
It showed that 31,1% of visitors to Zimbabwe were coming to visit friends and relatives, while 18,2% were here for holiday leisure.
The VES Report 2015/16 was a project undertaken by the Zimbabwe National Statistics Agency, the African Development Bank and the Tourism ministry to ascertain the level of tourism in the country and identify areas of improvement.
It covered the period July 2015 to June this year.
“33% of visitors either stayed with friends or relatives. Commercial accommodation such as hotels, lodges, chalets and camps accounted for 22% of all the accommodation used by the visitors,” the report said.
As such, an overall of 42% of visitors did not utilise any commercial accommodation, which included excursionists, visitors who slept in coaches/buses, trucks, cars and churches, thus cutting costs. Usually when travelling, accommodation is the biggest cost incurred.
The VES Report 2015/16 found that 83,7% of visitors spent $500 or less, while 41,8% spent $50 or less during their stay.
“The highest expenditure was on food and beverages accounting for 28%, followed by accommodation at 18%. Visitors from Oceania region were the highest spenders at $1 354, followed by those from Europe with an average expenditure of $909. The least spenders were visitors from Africa, with an average expenditure of $310,” the report said.
Another reason behind the low expenditure was that as the major source market of visitors was the African region with 80,7%, a large proportion of them did not utilise any commercial accommodation.
Visitors from overseas markets were found to utilise commercial accommodation, with the exception of United Kingdom, with 52,1% staying with friends and relatives.
“Although the proportion of visitors from African countries was the highest (80,7%) their average length of stay was the lowest, 7,6 nights. Visitors from Zambia (37,4%), South Africa (16,3%), Malawi (29,3%) and Botswana (3,8%) did not spend any money in Zimbabwe which agrees with findings that majority of visitors merely come to sightsee the country while spending money in neighbouring countries,” the report said
Visitors from the same countries spent between $1 and $50, while in the overseas countries, the United States had more visitors with low expenditure.
Harare, with 29,1% visitors, edged out Victoria Falls (27,9%) and Bulawayo (22,6%), as the most visited destination in the country.
The report found that 80,6% of visitors used cash during their stay, while 5,8% used plastic money.
For holiday/leisure visitors, the average expenditure per person per trip was $681.
However, the highest average expenditure was by visitors from South Africa at $1 081 followed by those from Denmark ($936), the United Kingdom ($857), Australia ($848) and the United States ($800).
Source: Tourists spend $800m in a year (30/12/16)

New Years Dilemma at Victoria Falls

Melissa Mpofu in Victoria Falls

The resort town of Victoria Falls is a hive of activity as it is hosting two mega events, the Jameson Vic Falls Carnival and the Fallin’16 festival.

The events which began on Thursday with parties in town have attracted a host of tourists from different countries, giving the town so much life.

Most hotels and tour operators are smiling all the way to the bank as they are fully booked. The town’s residents have not been left out as most locals who could not afford the hefty hotel prices are booked at their homes.

While most events organised locally seem to be failing to grow, the carnival, now in its fifth year, has managed to pitch itself as a must-go-to event —especially for tourists. Two years ago, the event was featured by CNN as one of the best festivals in Africa — putting a lot of spotlight on them.
That was the year the event was graced by notable socialites from South Africa including Bonang Matheba.

Carnival spokesperson — Emmanuel Tivatyi said it took a lot of hard work and commitment for them to brand themselves in a way that would appeal to foreigners.

“We were quick to take up international trends like online booking and working on packages suitable for tourists because that’s the language they understand,” Tivatyi said.

“It’s not easy organising events. A lot of systems need to be put in place and we always meet to ensure that things go the way we want them to. Team work and reliable partners has got us this far.”
But, what has made the carnival unique and more appealing is the activities on offer. The advantage of holding the event on a holiday and in a resort town is that people are always kept occupied with other activities — putting less pressure on show organisers. During the day, carnival attendees spend their time bungee jumping, water rafting, walking in the rain forest or flying above the Vic Falls and diving with crocodiles — depending on one’s wallet. Those who prefer relaxing can do so at hotels, most which have views to die for, especially those along the Zambezi River.

Food lovers are spoilt for choice as there are a lot of new restaurants with international standards. On top of the list is the Shearwater Café and KFC which recently opened shop opposite the Kingdom Hotel.

Tivatyi said the introduction of big brands like KFC was a welcome development.
“At times, visitors feel good when they see names they’re used to so having KFC in Vic Falls is a positive development. A lot of people are thrilled by the restaurant and our hope is that more similar players come through.”

On this year’s carnival attendance, Tivatyi said about 4 000 revellers had come through adding that more were still buying tickets. Last year, the carnival attracted about 3 500 people.
“Business is booming in Vic Falls. Though this year’s carnival did not reach its full potential because of the economic crisis, we’re not complaining.

“A lot of people benefit immensely from the hosting of this event, especially activity suppliers who’re having record numbers because carnival goers are adventurous party freaks,” said Tivatyi.
The setback so far for the carnival has been the attempt of a train party from Bulawayo where carnivalists were meant to be ferried to the resort town in style, dancing and drinking till they arrive.

That did not happen as only 15 people signed up for the party which was poorly marketed. As a result, the coach which has the disco was left behind — leaving the 15 to entertain themselves in a quiet and empty coach. However, their mood soon changed upon arrival at midday on Thursday. Carnival festivities began with a beach party by the riverside where music was played as carnivalists downed their sundowners while enjoying the warm weather and watching the sun set. Afterwards, parties were held across town with the main action being at Shoestrings were a welcome party was held.

Yesterday, the 15 from Bulawayo had another go in the train, this time for the real train party as carnivalists where ferried from the Vic Falls Train station to Jafuta — about 30kms out of Vic Falls for a train and bush party.

While carnival festivities were going on, Fallin’16 —another festival held to shut down the year was running concurrently at the Rest Camp. The outdoor event saw people being treated to quality music from Vic Falls DJ Spevah and Harare group — Trill Angel among many other entertainers.

Though it would seem as if Fallin’16 is a counter attraction, the event is actually a positive development as it has a vibe that is different from the carnival —giving the tourists and locals real value for their money as they are spoilt for choice. Fallin’16 which is being headlined by Winky D tomorrow has a more local touch to it while carnival has mostly foreign bands.

Source: Carnival, Fallin’16 liven up Vic Falls (31/12/16)

Tuesday, 27 December 2016

35 elephants captured from Hwange on a 'Flight to Hell'

Zimbabwe - Under cover of darkness on the night before Christmas Eve, 35 young elephants, some believed to be as young as 3 years old, were transported from Hwange to Victoria Falls airport for a flight to China. But it wasn’t to be the secret mission shrouded in tight security that Zimbabwean officials had hoped for. This ‘Flight to Hell’ was soon all over social media, while Zimbabweans slept.

Our investigations revealed that the first to post public news of this was Sharon Pincott, who worked with the Presidential Elephants of Zimbabwe in Hwange for 13 years but left in 2014 frustrated by unethical practices. She was in a different time zone and therefore wide awake. By the time Zimbabweans awoke, her Facebook post had been shared hundreds of times. Other sites were quick to spread the news which has enraged the world.

“Do they seriously think that they can keep doing this sort of thing now without people speaking out? There are a long list of people, from all walks of life, from both the sending and receiving countries who are horrified that ripping young elephants from their families continues to happen. It doesn’t take much anymore to get news out once an operation like this is in full swing,” said Pincott when we spoke to her.

“Those poor elephants were in tiny crates for more hours than I can bear to even think about, while there was delay after delay getting them loaded at Victoria Falls airport. Such Zimbabwean inefficiency and lack of care, on top of everything else, is unforgivable and alarming,” she said.

The elephants were eventually flown out to China on a Russian-registered Boeing 747.

Another source who asked to remain anonymous said, “There is much more to this than meets the eye.”

Indeed, here at the Zimbabwean we ran an article in May 2015 which implicated a Chinese national, Li Song, as one of those involved –

Yet another source who also asked to remain anonymous told The Zimbabwean that there is increasing evidence to support the theory that the involvement of one of Li Song’s business associates may end up being even more shocking, in this lucrative market of elephants and elephant products.

“We are looking closely into tying all of the pieces of this extensive puzzle together, including the involvement of some other Parks Authority and Ministry personnel, not yet publicly named,” our source declared.

Source: Thirty-five Hwange elephants flew from Victoria Falls to China on a “Flight to Hell” (27/12/16)