Q&A: Betting big on Zim

Zimbabwe has gone through big change in the past year, and the Chief Executive of Rainbow Tourism Group, Tendai Madziwanyika, believes his country and its tourism-related operators are well-placed to cash in on the renewed interest in what Zimbabwe has to offer from a travel and tourism point of view.

Q: How would you describe the state of the African hotel industry?

A: Africa is in its infancy and ready to welcome the world. It is common knowledge that the world is looking to Africa for growth. As people start to travel to Africa, they will need accommodation and related services. We see huge opportunities for Africa, for the continent is blessed with many of the world’s natural wonders, such as our very own Victoria Falls, the Big Five in Hwange, and many other attractions across the continent that deserve the attention of the world. Hotels and lodges, eating facilities and ancillary activities are, therefore, growth opportunities for investment on the continent.

Q: What, do you believe, are the biggest talking points or issues?

A: The people of Africa are now demanding governance that is accountable to the people, so as to deliver world-class social amenities which naturally inspire freedom of expression. These are enablers for connectedness to a wider society that is global in nature.

Q: Do you have a view on the continued African development activity of the world’s big international hotel groups?

A: The world’s big international hotel groups such as the Hiltons, Marriotts, Radisson Hotels, and IHGs are invested to varying degrees on the African continent, largely by way of franchise arrangements with local partners. They have been instrumental in introducing global hoteling standards to the African continent. However, their expansion models in Africa have been what we can term overly risk averse, thereby limiting their penetration on the continent. As a result, local entrepreneurial players have exploited this space to launch many home-grown hospitality facilities, such as 400–roomed hotels. These are proving to be holding their own and are reaching the global market through channels such as Booking.com, Expedia and so forth.

Q: What’s the mood in Zimbabwe following the confirmation of Emmerson Mnangagwa as president of the country?

A: The mood in the country is highly optimistic of the prospects that the new government will unlock through various initiatives that include: the appointment of a progressive-looking cabinet which is likely to develop business-friendly policies likely to spur growth; the recent introduction of weekly updates to the nation after every cabinet meeting, which inspires confidence driven by indications of increased accountability by the administration; indications of the return of global airlines such as Lufthansa and Air France and the entry of new airlines such as Virgin Atlantic, Qatar Airways and Turkish Airlines; Harare and Victoria Falls becoming regional hubs; indications by the British and French governments and the International Monetary Fund that they will re-engage with Zimbabwe in various capacities.

Q: Is it fair to say that RTG is betting big on Vic Falls, following refurbishment of your Victoria Falls Rainbow Hotel property?

A: Yes. We are actually not only working on refurbishments, but also the expansion of existing properties. In addition, we are investing in new builds in Victoria Falls, and we are also targeting Harare and the Eastern Highlands. At the moment, our Victoria Falls properties are running on high occupancies and as we enter the high season room space is very limited. It is therefore mandatory that we expand our existing portfolio.

Q: What role does technology play in the RTG strategy?

A: Any business that does not embrace technology in its entirety will be disrupted! Rainbow Tourism Group is deploying various technological enhancements and enablements to reach the global audience, as well as to launch complimentary products and services. Through the use of technology, we are now able to introduce our travellers to a world of tourism options, ranging from homestays to lodges, hotels and restaurants through our Gateway Stream internet portal. Payments are now easy through the various global cards such as Visa, Mastercard etc.

Q: Are there any current international hotel trends that you believe are worth noting?

A: The integration of jobs through job enrichment and job enlargement. This is a trend where people are now enjoying their work more by being able to be skilled in other areas. They are therefore multi-faceted in the way that they can interact with guests. We feel that this enhances the employee’s experience. Secondly, the increased use of technology for making reservations as well as in-house through the use of internal wi-fi facilities.