Zimbabwe rises

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In recent yearsZimbabwehas been thought of as a troubled country whose economy has been crippled by political instability and subsequent sanctions. Now, the industry says things are changing and business is picking up. 

According to Chief Executive of the Zimbabwe-based tourism group, Africa Albida Tourism, Ross Kennedy, the dollarisation of the economy in March 2009 has led to a significant uplift in the business community across most sectors. “Supermarkets, car showrooms, fuel stations, bakeries, garden centres – you name it – are full of just about anything one could reasonably want or need. New restaurants, bars, cafés, clubs are testimony to the amount of disposable income now in circulation in the country. Kennedy adds that market forces, supply/demand pressures and consumer resistance are all fully at play now, which, he says has led to better service, more choice, lower prices and genuine buying power for the consumer.

Cities

Harare,Zimbabwe’s capital receives the largest number of business travellers, estimated to be about 70% of all visitors. InBulawayobusiness travellers are estimated to make up about 40-50% of visitors andVictoria Fallsabout 10%.

Harareis a major conference destination and features a 4 500-seater auditorium. Besides the mix of contemporary and historic buildings and tree-lined streets, it has a number of parks and gardens including a Botanical Garden with more than 900 species of wild trees and shrubs.

Bulawayois the second largest city inZimbabweand is known as the ‘City ofKings’. It is the nearest large city toHwangeNational Park,MatopoNational ParkandVictoria Falls.Bulawayoboasts several interesting tourist attractions. The other major cities include Chinhoyi, Kariba, Nyanga, Mutare, Kwekwe, Gweru, Masvingo and Beitbridge.

Getting there

Daily flights from regional cities are offered toHarare,BulawayoandVictoria Falls. The airlines flying intoZimbabweinclude BA Comair, SAA, AirZimbabwe, SA Airlink, Ethiopian Airlines, Kenya Airways, Zambezi Air, AirBotswana, AirNamibiaand AirMalawi. Flights betweenJohannesburgandHarareare offered many times a day on BA Comair, AirZimbabweand SAA.

Getting around

Kennedy suggests that business travellers make use of a rental car to get aroundZimbabwe. He says car rental is First World and competitive, and that there are a number of reputable companies including internationally recognised brands, Avis, Europcar and Budget, and local brands Rockshade, Impala, LED and Glory. “Road network is good and distances sensible between major cities and tourism destinations,” he adds. Apart from car rental, Kennedy says there is domestic air access betweenHarare,Bulawayo,VictoriaFalls, Kariba and Hwange with AirZimbabweand Solenta Air. There is also an extensive air charter sector operating inZimbabwe.

Where to stay

According to Kennedy, hotels and lodges inHarareandBulawayoare running at excellent occupancies driven mostly by visiting businessmen and consultants who are inZimbabweseeking, advising or are involved in new projects and/or regenerating existing business in manufacturing, mining, agriculture, tourism, banking, etc. He says: “Zimbabweis very definitely open for business and many opportunities exist in property/housing and infrastructure development.”

Harare

*Holiday Inn Harare: This hotel is ideally situated in the centre ofHarare. It is ideal for business travellers as it is only minutes away fromHarare’s shopping and business districts. There are 201 rooms and four suites available as well as conference facilities that can cater for groups of up to 300 delegates. The hotel also has two restaurants and a pool terrace.

*Meikles Hotel: This hotel has 317 beautifully appointed de luxe rooms which include luxurious balconied suites. The hotel also has various restaurants, an elegant tea lounge, an ‘Out of Africa’ bar, 15 banqueting and conference venues, a solar-heated rooftop pool, gymnasium, hair salon, and travel and touring services. Meikles offers airport transfers, a business centre and a high level of security in and around the hotel.

*Crowne Plaza Hotel Harare: This 19-storeyHarare hotel comprises 185 guest rooms, 14 suites, 21 single-bedded rooms, 210 double-bedded rooms and 65 non-smoking rooms. Some of the other facilities available include an outdoor pool, a news-stand and a gift shop. The hotel has seven conference rooms including a boardroom and can accommodate up to 300 delegates.

Bulawayo

 

*Holiday Inn Bulawayo: This hotel is located a short drive from the city centre and is close to an 18-hole golf course. The hotel is spacious and comfortable comprising 91 standard rooms, 31 business plus rooms, 31 executive rooms and four suites. All the rooms have modern amenities including air-conditioning. The conference and function rooms cater for groups of up to 300 people and there is also a well-equipped and staffed Business Centre available on site. The hotel also features the Pumulani Restaurant, the Arizona Spur a well-stocked KoBulawayo cocktail bar and a terrace overlooking the pool.

*Bulawayo Rainbow Hotel: This central hotel features 172 well-appointed guest rooms with en suite bathroom facilities and 24-hour service. There is a high-class restaurant serving international and traditional Zimbabwean fare, and the Sethule Bar which has a selection of fine wines, beers and spirits. Other facilities include a Business Centre and hair salon.

 Victoria Falls

 

*Victoria Falls Safari Lodge: Used by business travellers either for conferences or for leisure breaks during their visit toZimbabwe, the Victoria Falls Safari Lodge is set high on a natural plateau and borders theZambeziNational Park. It is just four kilometres away from theVictoria Falls. Standard rooms, de luxe rooms, standard suites and de luxe suites are available, all offering wireless Internet access. There is also an Internet Cafe with e-mail access, digital photo downloading, CD printing and photo printing facilities. For conferencing there are two conference rooms, two breakaway rooms and an open-air amphitheatre.

Money

Yvonne Jandles, Abercrombie & Kent, Managing Director Victoria Falls, explains that since the liberalisation of the economy, ATMs dispense USD cash and that exchanging money into other currencies can be done in the banks.

The South African Rand is also one of the most commonly used currencies. Kennedy says most prices are denominated in USD, but that Rands,Pulaand Pound Sterling are often accepted at market rates. However, the USD is the preferred currency inHarare. He says drawing cash is straightforward and that there are many ATM points across the country. A foreigner can draw up to US$500 per day on a foreign debit or credit card. It is recommended that travellers bring some small denomination notes with them for convenience. International credit cards are also widely accepted at most reputable hotels and restaurants.

There is often no smaller US currency than a one-dollar note available, so small change is usually given in Rand coins. Some of the smaller shops that are short of change try to palm off sweets as change.

Safety

Jandles says that while it is safe to walk in the streets, visitors need to exercise caution like they would in any other city in the world and avoid dark streets. She says it is also safe to drive at night, but when driving in the cities, travellers should be careful at intersections, especially those that are not very busy. Travellers should always drive with due regard to local conditions and traffic. If a traveller is lost they can feel safe asking a local for assistance. English is widely spoken and Zimbabweans are friendly and welcoming.

Other tips

Communication, particularly via cell phone is often difficult due to poor connectivity. Most hotels now offer wireless hotspots or have it in the room but connection is sometimes erratic and slow. Business travellers should apply the same awareness, vigilance and personal behaviour as they would when travelling anywhere new. They should research where to stay, use reputable local contacts, take references on partners/advisors/investors, use their relevant embassy or high commission as a resource, and avoid unknown areas/locations when travelling alone. It is preferable to avoid travelling on major intercity roads at night, as well as known wildlife areas. Be aware of cultural differences and obey the law.

Where to eat:

*Victoria 22 – Newlands,Harare

*Amanzi – Highlands,Harare

*La Fontaine at The Meikles Hotel –Harare

*Miller’s Grill –BallantynePark,Harare

*Shangri La Chinese Restaurant – Highlands,Harare

*DelhiPalaceIndian Cuisine –GreystonePark,Harare

*TheBulawayoClub – City Centre,Bulawayo

*NesbittCastle– Suburbs,Bulawayo

*MaKuwa-Kuwa Restaurant at VFSL –Victoria Falls

*The Livingstone Room at the Victoria Falls Hotel –Victoria Falls

*The Boma- Place of Eating –VictoriaFalls

 


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