By : Mernat Mafirakurewa
21 May 2012
Victoria Falls- A South-African headquartered safari company is planning to invest up to $10 million towards the refurbishment of its facilities and the acquisition of aircrafts as it gears to take advantage of the countrys recovering tourism sector.
Wilderness Safaris last week signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) with the government for close co-operation with the ministry of Tourism and Hospitality Industry.

Wilderness is a conservation organisation and ecotourism company dedicated to responsible tourism throughout the areas in which it operates in Africa.

Established in 1983, Wilderness operates camps and safaris in Botswana, Congo, Kenya, Namibia, Malawi, Zambia, Zimbabwe and the Seychelles.

Speaking after signing the MOU on Saturday, Keith Vincent, an official at Wilderness said part of the funds would be used to improve its safari camps in the country.

We want to acquire new aircraft for Wilderness Air which offers scheduled flights to various destinations, said Vincent.

We will also invest in partnerships and training of staff. The conditions are good, we just need to deliver world class facilities.

Vincent said as a result of the economic downturn the country went through in recent years, the company was forced to reduce its staff complement to 400 from 650 in 1999.

Wilderness has now a staff complement of over 2 800 across seven countries.

Wilderness Safaris operates privately on over 3 million hectares on the continents wildlife reserves with more than 70 lodges and camps.

Zimbabwe Tourism Authority chief executive officer, Karikoga Kaseke, said Zimbabwe required investment in the subsector of accommodation in order to meet the growing demand.

Kaseke said there was need for an additional 1 500 rooms in the next five years to avoid accommodation challenges arising in the resort town. He said there were currently 2 200 rooms in Victoria Falls translating to 2 800 beds.

We require investors in subsectors of our economy, said Kaseke. The ZTA boss said the Africa Travel Association congress presented an opportunity for the country to showcase itself after a decade-long economic downturn.

During the economic slump, Kaseke said, tourist arrivals plummeted to 1,2 million from a high of 2,2 million. He said the sector has been on a recovery path since the adoption of multiple currencies in 2009.