Leonard Ncube, Victoria Falls Reporter
AFRICAN Sun hotel group’s new management in Zimbabwe, Legacy Group, has hiked rates for its facilities casting doubts on affordability of hotel services by locals.
A snap survey at the group’s Victoria Falls hotels – Elephant Hills Resort, Kingdom Hotel and Victoria Falls Hotel – has shown that rates for single, double, executive, deluxe and executive rooms have been increased although management said the change was minor.
The increases have also been effected on conferencing rates and recently organisers of an unnamed seminar had to reschedule their meeting from Elephant Hills to Inyanga because of high rates.
In an e-mail response, the group’s chief executive officer, Edwin Shangwa, confirmed the increase in rates on all accommodation facilities, which he said was triggered by high cost of supplies.
“There have been minor rate increases throughout the group in line with the current increase of essential supplies by suppliers,” he said.
Shangwa said the new developments were a result of a massive marketing drive regionally after the coming in of Legacy Group.
“The hotels continue to be fully functional with mixed use facilities covering all guest requirements be it conference, business or leisure.
“As a result of the introduction of the Legacy Group, an internationally recognised brand, there has been greater sales and marketing through the legacy worldwide networks, which may have created the perception the business model is shifting – it’s not. The hotels remain a property with the capabilities to welcome and accommodate every guest’s specific needs,” he said.
Domestic and regional rates at Elephant Hills and Kingdom Hotel are now $198, up from $180 for single rooms and $242 up from $212 for double rooms.
Executive rooms are now $396, deluxe $572 up from about $500 while the presidential suite, which used to be around $700, now costs about $2,500.
The rates are for bed and breakfast only.
At Victoria Falls Hotel, a single room now goes for $346 up from $329 for both regional and domestic clients. Rates for Hwange Safari Lodge could not be established.
The group also runs Holiday Inn, Troutbeck Resort and Monomotapa Hotels. Conference rates are negotiated.
Indications are that the group wants to make its hotels resort destinations and move away from being ordinary facilities.
This comes at a time when average hotel occupancies have been hovering between 40 percent and 51 percent last year with only 100 percent being realised during the festive season.
The drop is blamed on liquidity in the region where the rand is also on a free fall.
The group a few months ago closed its Beitbridge branch following the board’s recommendation as “the hotel was unlikely to return to profitably in the foreseeable future and keeping it open would only have eroded value for the broader group.”
The new management last month terminated contracts for dozens of its workers as part of measures to streamline its operations to add to scores that lost their jobs after last year’s Supreme Court ruling that gave employers the green light to terminate contracts on three months’ notice.
The tourism industry has been facing viability challenges for sometime in the wake of suppressed arrivals. The situation has also been blamed on high charges for services with players seeking the scrapping of the 15 percent tourism levy, which was introduced last year.