Victoria Falls

From : Timeslive.co.za
By : TAWANDA KAROMBO
19 February 2012

Zimbabwe’s tourism sector, buoyed by a significant improvement in tourist arrivals, is looking increasingly lucrative, with hotel operators giving their properties a facelift and boosting services.

This follows a jump in occupancy levels recorded for the quarter to the end of December. Local hotel operators have ditched their South African operations, following moves to dispose of Meikles’ Cape Grace Hotel and the closure of African Sun’s Lakes and Grace hotels in SA last year.

Both are now looking at boosting their operations at home and hope to capitalise on the steady recovery in the economy and the improvement of the tourism and hospitality industry.

Industry players told the Sunday Times this week that despite the recent improvement in room occupancy, the country’s hospitality sector still faced an uncertain future, as the industry is prone to political disturbances, especially if there are early elections this year.

Officials also warned overzealous youths who have been invading tourist attractions that this “will send wrong signals to the international community” and impact heavily on tourism.

“We have been doing well in the sector, with tourists making their way into the country. The entry of Emirates has boosted things. But there is still a lot of uncertainty because if you look at recent years, hotel operations and tourism have always been disturbed by the political environment, especially with elections expected this year,” said one industry executive.

Meikles, which operates the Meikles hotels in Harare and Bulawayo, this week reported firming occupancy rates at its hotels.

“The hotels had an encouraging last quarter of 2011,” said Meikles in a management report. It said hotel “occupancy levels improved markedly, particularly at the Victoria Falls Hotel, where the occupancy was 57% for the period to the end of December.”

The Meikles Hotel in central Harare had 49% occupancy during the same period while the company’s revenue per available room surged by 43% and 10% for the Victoria Falls Hotel and Meikles Hotel, respectively.

The report also noted the hotel arm was “trading profitably and will report a profit” for the financial year to end of March.

Meikles and competitor African Sun are refurbishing their flagship hotels to help attract more guests. Work on Meikles Hotel is scheduled to start early next month and will be done over seven months. African Sun said it would spend $10-million, introducing the Intercontinental Hotels Group brand in Zimbabwe and refurbishing its Holiday Inn hotels.

Tourism Minister Walter Mzembi this week slammed youth groups for invading hotels, holiday homes and conservancies. “Cabinet deliberated the issue of alleged invasions. We resolved that those are acts of lawlessness.”