The investment of US$2.7m in a new luxury room block by Victoria Falls Safari Lodge is but one of many positive indicators that Zimbabwe tourism is on a steady revival path after a faltering past decade.
So said Ross Kennedy, chief executive of Africa Albida Tourism (AAT), at INDABA 2012 currently underway in South Africa.
“There was a perceptible momentum in changing fortunes in 2011, backed by hard statistics, and 2012 has seen that pace quicken with good news stories coming in a steady stream,” he added.
Africa Albida Tourism has put its money where its mouth is by embarking on the construction of an exclusive new 20-room wing, the Induna Club, and will also spend $300,000 on refashioning the public areas of the existing award-winning lodge.
Kennedy highlighted other good news stories coming out of Zimbabwe:
A number of industry players in Victoria Falls are also showing their confidence in the industry by undertaking similar projects to cope with the international upswing.
The Victoria Falls Airport is being modernised and enlarged and the runway is being lengthened to four kilometres to cope with bigger aircraft in anticipation of greatly increased numbers.
A number of international airlines are reported to be in discussions with Civil Aviation Authority of Zimbabwe (CAAZ) concerning direct long haul access to Victoria Falls.
Emirates has commenced its five-times-a-week schedule from Dubai to Harare via Lusaka to open up the Middle East to Zimbabwe for the first time and load factors are high.
The World Tourism Organisation (UNWTO) has enthusiastically endorsed Victoria Falls for its global summit in 2013, expected to draw 3,000 delegates and spouses from 158 countries across an 8-day programme between August 23rd and September 02nd, 2013.
The African Travel Association (ATA) has followed suit and will stage its conference for up to 600 delegates at Victoria Falls from May 18th-22nd this year.
A modern conference centre and tourism plaza is to be constructed at Victoria Falls to lure international association events and is scheduled to be complete by August 2013.
In 2011 tourism earnings increased by almost 50 per cent to 2.3 million visitors and that renaissance is continuing this year.
The Adventure Travel Trade Association (ATTA, USA) a significant global organisation headquartered in America has issued a January 2012 report to its members that shines a positive light on Zimbabwe.
“Should the positive upward trend of international tourists continue then the future of tourism in Zimbabwe in 2012 looks bright,” said ATTA, USA.
“The year 2011 showed a marked improvement in fortunes with seven of the main lodges/hotels in Victoria Falls reporting one seven-month period as their best since 1999.”
In 2011 most hotels in the Victoria Falls region recorded increased occupancies. Arrivals into Victoria Falls grew by 19.6 per cent in 2011 versus 2010, with growth from existing markets, plus increased interest and arrivals from new markets such as Eastern Europe, Middle East and Asia.