THE Africa Albida Tourism is celebrating its busiest year ever, as tourists flock to Victoria Falls, with its flagship property Victoria Falls Safari Lodge enjoying over 80% occupancy over the past six months.
By Nokuthaba Dlamini
AAT public relations officer Marianne Betts said in the year to September 30, occupancy at Victoria Falls Safari Lodge, AAT’ flagship property, was 81,5%, compared to 71,7% over the same period last year, and similarly, across ten hotels measured in the resort town, year on year occupancy rose from 53,6% to 58,7%.
Ross Kennedy, the group’s chief executive officer said the growth was due to expansion of Victoria Falls International Airport.
“The new Victoria Falls Airport, with its geographical hub location, plus much enhanced route access and connectivity, has played a part in the growth of the destination”.
Betts said the lodge had its busiest August ever this year, with an occupancy rate of 88% also due to renovations and activities.
“This comes as AAT upgraded some of its properties, introduced new activities, expanded its already extensive corporate social responsibility programme and took home several national awards,”Betts said.
“Victoria Falls Safari Club underwent a $600 000 redevelopment in March which included the addition of a swimming pool, sundeck and gazebo, and an expansion and upgrade of its central building, which doubled the size of its existing deck, increasing the lounge space, and creating a new restaurant, with a dedicated kitchen.
“A fitness room with six free-standing exercise machines, as well as weights, a bench and exercise balls was built at Victoria Falls Safari Lodge, boasting an unrivalled view of bushveld to the horizon, with the opportunity to spot wildlife at the onsite waterhole.
The sunset-facing glass-fronted fitness room opened in September, as part of a $150 000 redevelopment, which also included the replacement of the decking at the Victoria Falls Safari Lodge swimming pool directly above the new fitness room.”
She said they also refurbished other lodges interior.
“The value-for-money Lokuthula Lodges also underwent an upgrade, which included the installation of air-conditioning and new queen size beds in the main bedrooms, and soft refurbishments in the living areas.
Both Victoria Falls Safari Lodge and Ngoma Safari Lodge underwent soft refurbishments, which included an update and refreshment of the interiors.”
In September, AAT raised $30 000 through the Victoria Falls Anti-Poaching Unit (VFAPU) golf day to go towards conservation.
AAT also launched a jetty at Ihaha in Chobe National Park (Botswana) with two new scenic game viewing and river-based safari activities in Victoria Falls were introduced at Ngoma Safari Lodge — guided mokoro trips, and exclusive cruises along tranquil stretches on the Chobe River.
“In 2018 AAT also launched Victoria Falls Recycling to protect the environment around one of the Seven Natural Wonders of the World, by recycling as much waste as possible, thereby reducing the volume of litter on the streets and going to the Victoria Falls dumpsite.”
“ Local hotels, retailers and residents are participating in the initiative, which is recycling plastics and papers, and is set to expand to include glass and beverage cans in due course. Victoria Falls Recycling is a partnership with Greenline Africa Trust, PetrecoZim and Victoria Falls Municipality.
As part of AAT’s commitment to reduce plastic, and to minimise its carbon footprint, the group is about to introduce the environmentally friendly Natura water system, where water is purified onsite using a three-stage filtration system. Impurities are removed to produce top quality, great-tasting water, provided to guests in glass bottles, which will then be left behind for the next guest to use.”
The project is coordinated by seasoned conservationists Charlene Hewat.
The group has this year won two prestigious Zimbabwe Council for Tourism awards, with operations and finance director Nigel Frost being named Tourism Personality of the Year for successfully spearheading a campaign by the tourism sector to reverse the application of backdated VAT to hospitality billings in the country together with achievement in Marketing Award for the Africa’s Living Soul tourism survey, which provides tourism data of the Victoria Falls region among other environmental awards.
AAT operates a portfolio of products in Victoria Falls, including lodges and safari and The Boma — Dinner & Drum Show.