BY OWN CORRESPONDENT
Jamie Henson, a tourism operator, expects to open a new US$1,5 million lodge in Victoria Falls by June as interest in Zimbabwe’s tourism sector continues to grow despite trouble with the country’s economy.
The 23-bedroom lodge, located in the suburbs, was funded by a mix of local and international investors.
Henson, the lodge manager, is a Zimbabwean who has lived in New Zealand for the past 17 years. He said the opening of Shongwe Lookout, is evidence that the tourist boom experienced last year was far from over in the eyes of investors.
“We were looking at the statistics on tourist numbers in Victoria Falls, and realised there is a very positive future here.”
Henson arrived in Zimbabwe just before the currency crash last year and said, thanks to good management, the lodge was still on track to take its first batch of guests from June 1 this year.
“So far, the response from travel agents has been fantastic. They love the concept of what we are doing and say they simply do not have enough accommodation in Victoria Falls at present.”
Henson said Shongwe Lookout targets “the more discerning traveller” looking for comfort and value for money.
The lodge is expected to offer guests access to two platforms on a viewing tower, with vistas of the Zambezi River and spray rising from Victoria Falls, as well as a pool, restaurant area, boma area and a bar.
Henson said he and his wife were excited about living in Zimbabwe.
“My wife is from New Zealand, so we were a bit nervous about how she would adapt. But, so far, we are both loving it. There is so much happening around Victoria Falls. It’s a really positive place to be.”
Last year saw Zimbabwe’s tourist arrivals jump 15% on the back of positive international coverage of the country after changes in government. The impact of economic turbulence remains to be seen on tourist numbers to the country.
However, Henson said anecdotal evidence suggests that tourist numbers remained high.