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AAT projects tourism recovery

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BY MTHANDAZO NYONI
VICTORIA Falls Safari Lodge estate last month recorded its highest occupancies since the onset of COVID-19 in March 2020, with operators in Zimbabwe’s top tourist destination optimistic of a recovery following the near collapse of the industry in the past year.

Occupancy across Africa Albida Tourism (AAT)’s Victoria Falls Safari Lodge, Victoria Falls Safari Club and Victoria Falls Safari Suites’ reached 33% in October, with some hotels in Victoria Falls reporting similar occupancies, according to a statement released by the group yesterday.

This compares well with average monthly occupancies across AAT’s three properties being 16% so far in 2021, while bookings for the Christmas holidays are at 45% so far.

AAT chief executive Ross Kennedy said while November had historically been a low traffic month, December and the festive season were showing signs of being the busiest period since the start of the pandemic.

“The forward booking pattern seems positive at this time and from the second quarter of 2022 onwards there appears to be real momentum building. There are, however, many factors at play across all source markets and the world, so we take nothing for granted in an ever-changing extremely competitive environment,” Kennedy said.

“We are seeing a trend of many more late bookings, with guests from local, regional and international markets, booking, paying and staying within one to three weeks.”

Guests have also been staying longer in the last six months and that trend is also reflecting in bookings, with some international visitors staying or booking for five to seven nights, Kennedy added.

The increase in occupancies comes as 96% of Victoria Falls Safari Lodge estate workers have been fully vaccinated against COVID-19, as well as 86% of Victoria Falls’ adult population.

In addition, AAT said access to Victoria Falls had been boosted with airlines flocking back to the destination. Airlines currently flying into Victoria Falls are fastjet, Ethiopian Airlines, Kenya Airways, British Airways (operated by Comair), Airlink, Air Zimbabwe and Mack Air, as well as charter airlines.

AAT said the Lufthansa Group’s new leisure airline Eurowings Discover will start flying into Victoria Falls from March 30, 2022, increasing Frankfurt-Windhoek flights to a daily service, with a Windhoek-Victoria Falls-Windhoek tag flight three times a week.

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