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Pandemic turns Zimbabwean hotels to white elephants

Pandemic turns Zimbabwean hotels to white elephants

from DANIEL JONES in Victoria Falls
VICTORIA FALLS, (CAJ News)  – THE vast amounts of money proprietors spent refurbishing hotels appear money down the drain as the coronavirus outbreak and subsequent lockdowns threaten to send Zimbabwean eateries into oblivion.

Most owners had spruced up their hotels before the outbreak of the global pandemic, a scourge that sent Zimbabwe into lockdown at the beginning of April 2020.

Wild Horizons channeled $900 000 towards the refurbishment of Lookout Café, which had reopened to the public in December 2019 with a new sitting capacity of 200, up from 80 following a fire that burnt down the facility a year earlier.

Bouncing back, it anticipated business to be brisk.

Africa Albida Tourism (AAT) had also invested thousands of dollars in the facelift of the famous The Boma – Dinner & Drum Show.

The Victoria Falls Hotel also upgraded its Jungle Junction Restaurant.

These are among eateries in the major tourist city that are threatened with oblivion as the COVID-19 crisis continues.

Others have resorted to home deliveries in an attempt to survive in the absence of international tourists.

Victoria Falls is well-known for adventure tourism but the adventure is not enough without five-star restaurants that provide both traditional and foreign dishes to visitors.

The government recently opened the Victoria Falls and Kazungula borders and allowed restaurants to serve sit-ins under strict COVID-19 health protocol but low arrivals have eroded business.

Reynardo’s and Ellie Café Elephant’s Walk are new first-class facilities that were meant to open but COVID-19 has impacted the plans.

Gary Archer, Wild Horizons chief executive, said Lookout Café was serving breakfasts and lunches depending on orders.

Ross Kennedy, AAT chief executive, said The Boma-Dinner & Drum Show had been opening four times a week since the start of the year.

“The Boma – Dinner & Drum Show has been impacted heavily along with the entire destination during COVID-19. It was course not operational for much of 2020, from late March,” Kennedy said.

“Since December 2020, The Boma has been operational in direct response to occupancy at our properties and the whole town. This has allowed us to open up to four nights per week for the last four months,” Kennedy said.

Hopes were high in May and June that the industry was coming back to life, before level four lockdown grounded the sector again.

Kennedy said between April and June there were some busy evenings, especially over holidays and when there were meetings and conferences in Victoria Falls.

He said the facility would nonetheless remain open the foreseeable future in anticipation of improvement in arrivals.

Reynardo’s, a new restaurant operated by tourism executive, Bud Cockcroft, and his son Guy, postponed opening last year because of the lockdown.

The open air café is within close proximity to a number of lodges and guesthouses in Aerodrome and Low Density.

“The official opening for sit-ins will begin once lockdown restrictions are lifted. We want to attract both local residents and international travelers alike through a diverse menu,” said Bud Cockroft.

Ellie Café Elephant’s Walk, operated by Simba Musiyiwa, targets to open for sit-ins once lockdown is over.

– CAJ News

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