“Air-lift capacity and access are fundamental to growth and development of tourism across Africa”

Ross Kennedy Chief Executive Africa Albida Tourism

Ross Kennedy
Chief Executive
Africa Albida Tourism

What is the Return to Zimbabwe Awareness Campaign about?
The Return to Zimbabwe Awareness Campaign was initiated by a group of like-minded tourism professionals and operators who utterly believe in the destination and Zimbabwe’s tourism products, and wish to see current and potential source markets genuinely understanding how much we have to offer as a world-class destination. The campaign was born during a conversation at World Travel Market, with colleagues from Zimbabwe.
The key focus of the awareness campaign will be to re-educate in some cases and educate in other cases, in-bound travel agents and operators, as well as out-bound tour operators from key source markets. This relates to the fact that the modern 2013/2014 Zimbabwe, is a very different country and destination to that which many may think, or believe, from events and media coverage of the last 15 or so years.

Why would you chose Zimbabwe as a travel destination?
There are many, many factors that answer that particular question. Zimbabwe is a country so rich in diversity, from a tourist’s point of view. It is a country that has remarkable hospitably and welcoming people, and has a range of destinations and experiences, ranging from wildlife opportunities, national parks, lakes, rivers, dams and choices of destination to meet most needs of a tourist on the African continent. The diversity ranges from the obvious Victoria Falls, to a remote 4 or 6 bedded tented camp, in the epitome of wilderness being guided by some of the finest guides in the world. It is a destination that offers so much choice to a tourist in terms of matching budget and expectations to people’s aspirations. Across the country and the very many tourism destinations, the choice in options for transport, accommodation, food, cultural interaction, art, history, sport and other leisure choices is immense, alongside amazing wildlife experiences.
What progress has been made on the Victoria Falls Airport, and what impact will these developments have on the tourism industry?
The Victoria Falls Airport project is thus far on course, with the Victoria Falls Airport Manager advising us two weeks ago that the new 4 km runway which is designed and built to receive long-haul, wide-body jets, should be ready in May 2014. The new terminal building to handle this new and increased traffic and larger aircraft, is scheduled to open in April 2015. So far, all reports from the authorities indicate that the project is on schedule . This development is a major boost for tourism to Zimbabwe, and the region, as it will establish Victoria Falls very clearly as the new hub of regional leisure tourism.
In addition to this, the access created for the rest of Zimbabwe will play a significant part in the growth of the tourism industry across the country. Air-lift capacity and access are fundamental to growth and development of tourism across Africa, and this new airport will be a significant enhancement to the entire African tourism network, linking all corners of Africa – from the historic pyramids in the North, the great National Parks of East Africa, to Cape Town and all the splendour of Southern Africa with Victoria Falls sitting as the central focal point. Just look on a map to confirm this assertion!
Victoria Falls, one of the Seven Wonders of the World and a UNESCO World Heritage Site, is the epicentre of a 500 km radius which includes one of the great rivers of the world, the Zambezi, and a diverse number of wilderness areas ranging from the Okavango Delta and Chobe National Park in Botswana, Kafue National Park in Zambia, Hwange and Matusadona National Parks and Lake Kariba in Zimbabwe – one of the largest man-made lakes in the world, to name a few. The region is arguably the greatest wildlife area on the planet. As the hub of this region, Victoria Falls and Zimbabwe stand to benefit tremendously with the forthcoming new airport. The opportunities and further benefits of this new airport, will certainly enhance Victoria Falls and Zimbabwe’s attraction to the MICE travel sector enabling many linkages with city and wildlife, beach and safari and world-class experiences available.
How have tourism arrival trends in 2013 differed to that of 2012?
The tourism arrival trends have differed very clearly, in so much as the arrival numbers in the area have increased compared to that of 2012, and are continuing to show very positive growth.
Whilst Victoria Falls can happily reflect on growth in excess of 20% over 2012, down-stream benefits of this increase are being felt across the tourism sector in Zimbabwe. Testimony to this comes in the form of 8 new camps and lodges built in Hwange in 2012 and 2013 alone – a sure sign that investors and operators are seeing a very promising and positive future.
Enhanced international long-haul access to Harare and the region will further add to making Zimbabwe an attractive proposition for pleasure and business travelers alike. A further very positive trend is the increase in the numbers of Zimbabwe residents who are once again enjoying the benefits and splendour of their own country, be it self-drive or fly-in.
Victoria Falls Safari Suites is launching on the 20th December. Tell us about this product.
Victoria Falls Safari Suites is a very exciting new product that we have created. It is a conversion of 6 of our existing Lokuthula Lodges, which are our self-catering and time-share lodges. We have taken them back to bare shell and have converted them into 6 beautiful, self-contained 2 and 3 bed-roomed premium, luxury units that are creating yet another product in the Victoria Falls market place.
The product is of a quality that is new to the destination and offers a choice of accommodation for family groups, multi-generational groups, small parties of friends and colleagues that may wish to travel together and have private, social space as opposed to being in a standard hotel bedroom. The Safari Suites come with a private lounge and patio area, all situated within the resort overlooking the same vista and National Park that the rest of the resort enjoys.
The Safari Suites, offer a variety of facilities that are not offered currently in any of our other properties, such as satellite television, flat screen TVs, popcorn machines for the kids, monitors that families can plug in family entertainment centres, Play Station and Xbox and indeed for photographers to review a day’s photography off their equipment, in the comfort of a lounge with 4 or 5 colleagues as opposed to sitting alone in a hotel bedroom. So, a lot of attraction for these products, with the response thus far having been extremely positive, with early interest being better than we may have hoped.
To whom will the Victoria Falls Safari Suites appeal?
The Victoria Falls Safari Suites have been designed with groups and families travelling together in mind. The Victoria Falls Safari Suites are a spacious, private retreat in which to enjoy the peaceful bushveld surroundings and take pleasure in time spent together as a group.
For example, as Victoria Falls has become an exciting wedding destination town, and with wedding parties travelling often together in groups of a dozen to 30 people, the Safari Suites are the perfect place to kick back and relax. The Safari Suites are especially suited to visitors whose length of stay may be longer than the average leisure tourism guest. The space is conducive to having this kind of group stay and allowing them to perform pre-wedding rituals such as getting the bride ready in a private, luxurious space, with her Mum and friends close by.

Africa Albida Tourism Public Relations
pr@africaalbida.co.zw
Phone: +263 4 885 200