While Victoria Falls remains the focus of the country’s tourism industry, other destinations have seen growing interest.
Cresta Hotels’ Chipo Mandela says there have been increased numbers of visitors in almost all destinations around the country, including Hwange National Park, Lake Kariba and the Lower Zambezi, Bulawayo and the Matobo Hills, Great Zimbabwe, the Eastern Highlands and the Gonarezhou area of the Lowveld.
For example, the new Kariba Safari Lodge is set to open in Kariba in September. Africa Albida Tourism’s Ross Kennedy says a number of new camps and lodges opened recently, or are about to open, in Hwange, representing significant investment.
According to Mandela, the key to facilitating significant and sustained increases in arrivals in all these destinations is the creation of satisfactory scheduled air services to connect them, so that it becomes appealing for visitors to Victoria Falls to tag on other attractions during their stay. “Domestic air travel is not yet conducive to such growth and it is pleasing to hear plans being laid for improvements in air services and airports around the country. Flowing from this will be increased offers of packages that facilitate inclusion of two or more additional destinations in a Zimbabwean holiday visit, over and above the Victoria Falls.”
Airlines operating in the region are already increasing frequencies in and to Zimbabwe. Hein Kaiser, General Manager Marketing and Communications at fastjet, says the airline has already upped frequencies between Johannesburg and Harare to four daily returns, while flights between Harare and Victoria Falls grew by 85% last year. He adds that the carrier is positive about the Zimbabwean market, with the forecast GDP growth continuing on an upward curve.
Self-drive visitors have often reported multiple challenges on Zimbabwe’s roads, but there are indications that driving is becoming viable once again. Brett Mc Donald, md of destination management company Flame of Africa, says: “The road to Kariba is brilliant. Between Harare and Kariba there is 377km of perfect tar road.” He suggests that those who want to make the drive should consider a stop at the Chinhoyi Caves, which are about halfway between Harare and Kariba, or at the Lion’s Den, where they can refuel their cars and have what he considers to be the best steak roll in the world.