Zimbabwe has endured sanctions, an unstable currency, and continued speculation about its future. However, this land-locked Southern African country isn’t to be counted out. With the adoption of the US dollar in 2009, the economy is slowly recovering, and there is renewed interest from international investors and tourists.
Population: 13 million
Time zone: GMT+2
Plugs: Three-prong square
Dialling code: +263
Currency: US dollar
Language: English, Shona, Sindebele
Robert Mugabe has been Zimbabwe’s only ruler since 1987, and has dominated the country’s political landscape since independence. Under his rule, Zimbabwe has battled to survive a challenging economy, widespread shortages of basic commodities, sporadic violence and hyperinflation.
The economy of Zimbabwe is mostly dependent on agriculture and mineral resources, with the mining industry the largest driver, accounting for almost half of the country’s exports. Although the economy is slowly improving, mass unemployment is still rife, and policy inconsistency, as well as a lack of investment security, remain huge obstacles to promoting investment in Zimbabwe.
Saying this, tourism, led by the stunning Victoria Falls area, is seeing a revival. The big question is, who will succeed Mugabe, who is already in his 90s.
BUSINESS TRAVEL NEWS
There is much anticipation regarding the completion of the Civil Aviation Authority of Zimbabwe’s $150m Victoria Falls International Airport expansion project, which is expected to wrap up in late 2015. It includes the construction of a second runway, an expansion of the existing runway, and construction of a new terminal building, inside road network and car park.
The Rainbow Tourism Group opened the Rainbow Beitbridge Hotel in 2014, near the border between South Africa and Zimbabwe. It has 136 rooms, each of which is equipped with a LED TV, mini-bar, tea station and hairdryer. Banqueting rooms are available, and the property caters to conferences, training programmes, seminars, cocktail dinners, wedding receptions, and social and corporate gatherings.
The new conference venue at the David Livingstone Safari Lodge & Spa in Victoria Falls offers 250m² of internal space, along with complimentary Wi-Fi and audio-visual equipment. It can accommodate 280 guests cinema-style, 138 guests convention-style, or 192 guests for a banquet. The event space continues outside with 140m² of Bedouin-tented patio area seating 160 guests and overlooking a waterhole. There is also a boardroom facility for up to 12 guests and an open-air boma and amphitheatre venue that hosts traditional cuisine experiences and performances by local talent.
On the airline front, Flyafrica.com, a new low-cost airline offering discounted airfares, has introduced flights from Johannesburg to Victoria Falls and Harare. Also on the low-cost front, Tanzania-based fastjet launched flights between Dar es Salaam and Harare in August 2014.
In November, the Civil Aviation Authority implemented a policy forcing passengers flying with Air Zimbabwe to pay airport taxes separately from airline tickets, in cash, before departing Zimbabwe. The $50 for international and $15 for domestic travellers can be paid at CAAZ offices located at Harare, Bulawayo, Victoria Falls and Kariba airports, or purchased as a tax coupon from the airline when booking a ticket.
The capital city, Harare, is the most populated city in Zimbabwe. Set in the natural garden of the Zimbabwe Highveld, 1500 metres above sea level, Harare is a friendly city of flowering trees and gardens and a temperate climate. Don’t miss the Harare gardens, Mbare market and museum on your visit.
Bulawayo is the second largest city located south-west of Harare. The Zimbabwe International Trade Fair is located here and is the largest intra-regional trade fair south of the Sahara, providing the largest, most convenient trade hub in the region.
Zimbabwe’s most popular tourist destination is Victoria Falls, home to the greatest curtain of falling water in the world.
But the country has so much more to offer. The Great Zimbabwe Ruins in Masvingo and the Khami Ruins in Bulawayo are among the world’s most well-preserved ancient cities. In addition, the Hwange Game Reserve is the country’s largest wildlife sanctuary and home to one of the largest elephant populations in Africa. Lake Kariba is also a popular destination for game viewing and fishing, while staying on a houseboat or on one of the islands.
AIRLINES & AIRPORTS
There are three international airports in Zimbabwe: Harare International Airport; Joshua Mqabuko Nkomo International Airport in Bulawayo, and the Victoria Falls International Airport.
Harare’s airport is the largest in the country, situated 10 kilometres from the centre of town. There are shops and small restaurants in the airport. Most of the airlines, including Emirates, SAA, BA Comair, Kenya Airways, Air Zimbabwe and Ethiopian, do offer airside lounge facilities to their First and Business Class passengers. Staff are generally very friendly and helpful. The airport security and customs x-ray systems are extremely thorough, though. Taxis, airport shuttles and transfers by car are the most popular forms of transport to and from the city.
Other airlines that land in Harare are Air Botswana from Gaborone, Air Namibia from Windhoek, Airlink from Johannesburg (South Africa), EgyptAir from Cairo (via Dar es Salaam), fastjet from Dar es Salaam (Tanzania), FlyAfrica, Kenya Airways from Nairobi, Kulula from South Africa, and LAM from Mozambique.
As the country’s national carrier, Air Zimbabwe connects Harare, Bulawayo and Victoria Falls, as does FlyAfrica. Kulula offers flights to Vic Falls from South Africa, while SAA reaches Bulawayo and Vic Falls in addition to Harare.
The Meikles Hotel is a 5-star property set in a prime location in the centre of Harare. Local tourist attractions such as Eastgate Centre, African Unity Square and the National Art Gallery are not far from the hotel. Also nearby are the Harare Gardens, Queen Victoria Museum and National Museum. Dining facilities at Meikles include La Fontaine, a superb restaurant worth trying. The hotel also offers transportation to/from the airport for an additional fee. Parking, however, is offered at no extra cost.
The Bronte Hotel is renowned for its beautiful gardens and collection of Shona sculptures. Centrally located in the Avenues, within walking distance of downtown Harare, the Bronte offers well-appointed rooms and executive suites in a garden setting. Suited to both the business and leisure traveller, the amenities include complimentary Wi-Fi, two swimming pools, a fitness centre, complimentary breakfast buffet, secure on-site parking and fine dining at Emmanuel’s Restaurant.
The 4-star Crowne Plaza overlooks the city. Its newly-refurbished rooms are a mix of twin rooms, king leisure rooms and suites, enjoying panoramic views of Harare, right on the doorstep of the city’s Central Park and Gardens. Zimbabwe’s National Gallery is a five-minute walk away and the renowned Botanical Gardens a short 10-minute drive. There is a variety of restaurants to choose from.
On Samora Machel Avenue, the Holiday Inn Harare is just 200 metres from the CBD and 12 kilometres from Harare International Airport. Mezzanine-floor meeting rooms can accommodate up to 250 guests. Dining is provided by the Silver Spur Steak Ranch restaurant, 24-hour room service, and the hotel restaurant.
Cresta Hotels offers three establishments in Harare. The centrally-located Cresta Jameson has a 24-hour front desk, business centre, conference facilities, Wi-Fi connectivity, and a health and beauty spa, whilst Cresta Lodge Harare, on the outskirts of the city centre, has a similar mid-market, yet solid offering, in a different setting. The group also operates the Cresta Oasis, which is a hotel that also offers serviced apartments for long-term stays. Cresta also has the Cresta Churchill in Bulawayo – a 50-room property that apparently “oozes Tudor charm”.
Rainbow Tourism Group is represented in Harare by two hotels. The Rainbow Towers Hotel and Conference Centre was refurbished in 2013 and has 304 rooms, Wi-Fi and 24-hour room service. Dining is provided by four eateries – the Harvest Garden (buffet restaurant); the Kombahari Restaurant (Afro-Asian fusion); Teppan Yaki (Far East cuisine); and La Patiserrie, the hotel’s lobby coffee shop.
Rainbow’s second Harare property, the New Ambassador Hotel, is located in the CBD, and is walking distance from the main financial, commercial and government institutions, as well as a host of shops, cinemas, restaurants, the National Museum and Art Gallery. It offers 72 rooms, a business centre, Wi-Fi connectivity and three dining options. RTG also has the Rainbow Bulawayo Hotel – its only property in that city.
The de facto official currency is the US dollar and it is very much a cash economy. The Zimbabwe dollar was effectively abandoned as the official currency in early 2009 after runaway inflation. The South African rand and British pound are also accepted, but you do not get a favourable exchange rate. Major international credit cards (Visa and MasterCard) are now accepted in most of the larger hotels, restaurants and shops, but many smaller establishments still do not have credit card facilities. Diners Club and American Express are often not accepted.
The majority of ATM cash machines are now dispensing cash with a maximum daily withdrawal of $500, although in smaller towns and rural areas you’ll need to bring cash. Change is given in South African rand coins when available. Where coins are not available, you’ll often receive a voucher to redeem at your next purchase, or possibly a small item like chocolate to the value of your change.
Countries whose nationals do not require visas:
For a stay of up to six months – Hong Kong.
For a stay of up to three months – Antigua and Barbuda, Aruba, Bahamas, Barbados, Belize, Botswana, DRC, Cyprus, Fiji, Grenada, Jamaica, Kenya, Kiribati, Lesotho, Malaysia, Malawi, Maldives, Malta, Mauritius, Namibia, Nauru, Samoa, Singapore, Solomon Islands, St Kitts and Nevis, St Lucia, St Vincent and the Grenadines, Swaziland, Tanzania, Trinidad and Tobago, Tuvalu, Uganda, Vanuatu and Zambia.
Countries whose nationals are granted visas at the port of entry on payment of the requisite visa fees ($55): Argentina, Austria, Australia, Belgium, Brazil, Brunei, Canada, Czech Republic, Denmark, Dominican Republic, Egypt, Finland, France, Germany, Greece, Hungary, Indonesia, Iceland, Ireland, Israel, Italy, Japan, Kuwait, Liechtenstein, Luxembourg, Monaco, Netherlands, New Zealand, Norway, Palau Island, Palestine (State of), Papua New Guinea, Poland, Portugal, Puerto Rico, Seychelles, Slovak Republic, South Korea, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland, United Arab Emirates, Uruguay, United Kingdom, United States, Vatican City and Virgin Islands.
Travellers from the following African countries can obtain visas at entry point, for no charge: Botswana, DRC, Ghana, Kenya, Lesotho, Malawi, Mauritius, Mozambique, Namibia, South Africa, Swaziland, Tanzania, Uganda, and Zambia.
For Egypt and Seychelles, $30 is to be paid at entry point.
All other passport holders need to apply in advance.
Zimbabwe has three main mobile operators – Econet, Telecel and NetOne. Econet is currently the biggest mobile operator with more than eight million subscribers. Telecel has just over three million and NetOne is the smallest. Econet is targeting 100% network coverage in the country by 2015, up from around 74% currently and just 13% three years ago.
The most affordable mobile internet offerings in Zimbabwe are from Africom, Powertel, Econet, Telecel, ZOL and MWeb. Late 2014 saw Telecel reduce its wireless dongle prices to $25, with unlimited data for the whole month and then $10 per month for 300MB. That followed on earlier Telecel special deals, so it’s worth seeing what they have to offer, should you be in the market for such a product on your trip.
Malaria is prevalent in large parts of the country so do take the necessary precautions.
Private medical centres offer excellent healthcare, especially in Harare, where world class treatment is available 24/7. There are also several ambulance companies who can undertake medical evacuation where necessary – visitors are advised to have adequate medical aid cover.
There are also a number of emergency clinics offering good healthcare after hours, if you prefer avoiding a hospital.
Drinking tap water is not advisable, although Victoria Falls does have its own water purification plant.
At the time of going to press in late 2014, Zimbabwe had no reported cases of Ebola.
Be aware of potholes when driving, as well as police road blocks. Road travel is not recommended after dark, due to defective vehicles, stray animals and the poor state of the roads.
There has been an increase in the number of smash and grabs, so ensure your taxi/driver knows where not to go, that your windows are wound up, and that no bags, phones, laptops or suitcases are visible.
There are a number of toll gates in operation on the main roads, which charge $1 per standard vehicle.
In terms of eating out, if you’re looking for a change from your Harare hotel food, try Amanzi on Enterprise Road, or Victoria 22 on Victoria Drive in Newlands.
This profile was supplied by HRG Rennies Travel
Contact: +27 10 219 6620
Financial Director – HRG Rennies Travel
Zimbabwe is a pleasant and friendly business destination, albeit an expensive one. The country is well serviced by air from South Africa and it is very possible to undertake a day trip without the need to stay over. Harare airport is usually busy, but always efficient, and offers a hassle-free experience. The roads are in need of repair, so avoid driving and opt for a taxi or transfer instead.
When I need to stay overnight in Harare, I prefer staying at guesthouses – the accommodation is of a good standard, but rates are pricey – expect to pay in the vicinity of $160 per night.
For a good night out, I recommend Amanzi restaurant. The restaurant is situated in a colonial house, has a great atmosphere, and the food is of a good standard (average price for a main meal is about $20).
When exploring the city, remember that you are not permitted to take photos of any government buildings, or political party buildings – you could face arrest.
Cresta Jameson – www.crestahotels.com
Cresta Lodge Harare – www.crestahotels.com
Cresta Oasis – www.crestahotels.com
Crowne Plaza – www.ihg.com
Holiday Inn – www.holidayinn.com
Imba Matombo – www.imbahotels.co.zw
Rainbow Bulawayo – www.rtgafrica.com
Air Botswana – www.airbotswana.co.bw
Air Zimbabwe – www.airzimbabwe.aero
Air Namibia – www.airnamibia.com.na
Airlink – www.flyairlink.com
British Airways – www.britishairways.com
EgyptAir – www.egyptair.com
Emirates – www.emirates.com
Ethiopian – www.ethiopianairlines.com
Fastjet – www.fastjet.com
FlyAfrica – www.flyafrica.com
Kenya Airways – www.kenya-airways.com
Access-to-Africa – www.access-to-africa.com
American Express – www.americanexpresstravel.co.za
CWT – www.carlsonwagonlit.com
Harvey World – www.harveyworld.co.za
HRG – www.hrgworldwide.com
Travel with Flair – www.travelwithflair.co.za