“As a tourism industry in Victoria Falls, and indeed across the country, we have a significant responsibility to continue enhancing the positive news about brand and destination Zimbabwe.”
The Victoria Falls Safari Club was awarded the David Chapman Cup for Innovation by the Zimbabwean tourism industry at the annual Zimbabwe Council for Tourism awards in March 2014. What makes the Victoria Falls Safari Club such a stand-out property?
In creating the Victoria Falls Safari Club 18 months ago, we undertook extensive market research with the travel trade and travelers across key markets and it is very clear that there is a strong and growing market of travelers who wish for more space, more comfort, more facilities, a greater level of personal service and indeed are very willing to pay a premium rate for that product. We have found that many of the guests who book the Safari Club are travelers who prefer to travel in business and first class on their long haul journeys and desire and indeed expect, very personal attention – starting with a private and personal transfer from the airport and enhanced personal service throughout their stay.
One of the key elements that defines the Victoria Falls Safari Club is the club lounge which is a private haven for Safari Club residents only – which even when full, hosts only a maximum of 40 guests (in our 20 premium luxury rooms). It is from this club lounge where management and a team of butlers are on continual stand-by to look after the needs of our Club guests.
The inclusions in the Club in terms of services, added value and complimentary services are part of what make this such an extremely attractive proposition to so many guests. As the product matures and we talk to our guests and learn more, we continue to enhance the product and the way we deliver service and hospitality to meet the ever changing needs of this particular market. Whilst having the haven of the Club and the privacy of only 20 rooms in the Club property, Club guests of course have full access to all other facilities, bars, restaurants and services of the entire resort.
Africa Albida Tourism has built and successfully opened 3 luxury brands in the last 3 years, namely Ngoma Safari Lodge located in Chobe, Botswana in 2011, Victoria Falls Safari Club in 2012 and in December 2013 Victoria Falls Safari Suites . What is next?
Next on the busy agenda that has led us through the last four years, is the project to completely upgrade, renovate and make over all 72 rooms of Victoria Falls Safari Lodge.
This project starts in early April and will be complete by July 15, 2014. We are fortunate in the design and layout at Victoria Falls Safari Lodge – we have 6 individual bedroom blocks making up the 72 rooms. We will be able to work on one block at a time, whilst continuing to operate the Lodge to its normal standards and quality. There will be minimal disruption to our guests with 24hr attention from senior management, close control of working hours by the project team and limited use of equipment, as well as controlled movement of project staff.
Zimbabwe has received much positive press in the United Kingdom recently. What impact does this have on the Zimbabwe brand?
This growth in positive press in both consumer media and trade media has a significantly positive impact on brand Zimbabwe and destination Zimbabwe. The kind and quality of the media that have started to write such positive articles about us, have very high levels of readership in terms of distribution but also readers in the higher socio-economic group i.e. those with above average disposable income.
For ourselves at Africa Albida Tourism, we have seen a remarkable growth from the UK market to Zimbabwe in the last 15 months, with arrivals trebling since 2012. The first 2 months of 2014, have seen the United Kingdom market continue to grow and it is now approximately 10% of total arrivals in Victoria Falls. We aim to grow this further to at least 20% of our arrivals.
The interest and demand from the UK travel trade for educational trips, media trips and indeed client bookings continues to grow month by month. There is no reason to doubt that this growth in arrivals in Victoria Falls will continue throughout the rest of the country given that the United Kingdom was in the past one of our key source markets for many years and has the potential to be so again.
Statistics of tourism arrivals into Zimbabwe improved in 2013 compared to that of 2012. What needs to be done to keep numbers on an upward trend?
2013 arrivals into Victoria Falls, where we measure amongst our colleagues and competitors on a monthly basis, showed an increase in arrivals of 11.9% over the 2012 calendar year; but equally, if not more importantly, revenues grew by 20% in the same period.
As a tourism industry in Victoria Falls, and indeed across the country, we have a significant responsibility to continue enhancing the positive news about brand and destination Zimbabwe. This includes ensuring that levels of quality, service and hospitably are continually refined, upgraded and enhanced to meet international standards and expectations. Furthermore, it is important that we ensure that our products and the experience we offer is not only value for money but exceeds guests expectations. Two of the key issues in delivering the above are investing in people and training, and investing in our properties.
Ross, you spend a large proportion of your time travelling the world, marketing Zimbabwe as a destination. What is the inspiration behind your continual drive to do so?
Of course commercial success of our significant investment is a very key answer to that question. However there is much more to it than that in so much as my belief in the country as a destination and belief in the experience that we can offer to visitors and tourists is one of the finest in the world. This includes amazing diversity of location, choice of accommodation, experiences, wildlife, culture, sport and history, whilst not forgetting of course an amazing range of food and beverage offerings across the country. An important element is that along with this diversity there is a range of destinations, properties and products to suit every budget and every aspiration. From remarkable hiking trails in the Eastern Highlands with a backpack, to ultimate luxury in a 12 or 16 bedded camp, lodge or hotel in some of the finest destinations on the planet.
Testimony to the growing attraction of Zimbabwe to the rest of the World, is that in the Boma – Place of Eating restaurant in Victoria Falls, on any given night, one may hear between 6 and 10 different languages being spoken amongst the guests. It is the pleasure that I continually get from seeing the reaction of first time visitors to Zimbabwe and to Victoria Falls that keeps me both passionate about Zimbabwe, and of course pleased to see the success for the wonderful team that we are privileged to work with, in the Africa Albida Tourism team and wider tourism community.
1 April 2014
Africa Albida Tourism Public Relations
Phone: +263 4 885 200