Leonard Ncube in Victoria Falls
ONE of the leading tour operators in Victoria Falls, Wild Horizons, says it is enjoying a new lease of life in business on the back of increasing demand for its services.
The commissioning of the $150 million new look Victoria Falls International Airport by President Mugabe last year in November has resulted in increased arrivals to the country’s prime resort town.
Wild Horizons has business interests in Zimbabwe, Botswana, Zambia and South Africa. It recently introduced a luxury cruise to add to the traditional sunset and lunchtime cruise, which are a favourite for most tourists. The company’s sales manager, Mr Titus Maseko, told journalists during a media tour in Victoria Falls recently that the firm was now handling above 500 clients per day.
“In a single day we transfer over 500 people in and around Victoria Falls where about 90 percent of our clients are international,” he said.
Mr Maseko said there was high demand for the luxury cruise, with the company running five different kinds of boats on the Mighty Zambezi.
“Demand for luxury cruise is now 90 percent while most people also do sunset cruise because of the general increase in tourist arrivals in Victoria Falls. We run standard cruise boats, a 28-seater, 30-seater as well as 60 and 80-seater and sometimes we sub-hire.
“The most encouraging thing is it seems the perception of Zimbabwe as a destination has changed and people no longer view us as a risky area. This, together with new facilities as the airport and accommodation facilities, has attracted new attention,” he said.
Wild Horizons is into ground handling, activities and accommodation. The company ventured into tourism in the 1990s but established itself as Wold Horizons in 2004 as an amalgamation of individual companies. It also does transfers in and around Victoria Falls extending to Botswana and Zambia.
Major activities include white water rafting, tour of the Rainforest, gorge swing, elephant back safari, elephant ride and encounter, game drives, cruises, canoeing, fishing, helicopter flight among others.
The top adventure tour operator now offers accommodation facilities at Elephant Camp, Imbabala Safari Lodge and lately Stanley and Livingstone.
Over the years the operator was surviving on budget travellers and overlanders. It now has grown to be the biggest tour operator in Zimbabwe.
As such, Mr Maseko said their target market was foreign as the company’s motto is to empower indigenous operators by not competing with them.
“We don’t want to take business from indigenous local operators hence our focus is where local companies can’t go. This is why we hand over our overspills to local indigenous operators,” he said adding that they do not usually offer specials to tourists with a view that a three-tier system is not good for the industry.
Mr Maseko said Wild Horizons, which employs over 400 people, will contribute to the growth of the Special Economic Zones (SEZs) where Victoria Falls is one of the pilot areas alongside Bulawayo and Harare.
He said for SEZ in Victoria Falls to prosper, there was a need for a policy that can ensure the destination retains part of revenue realised there.
“Victoria Falls needs to retain a certain amount of resources and we hope whatever is going to happen with the SEZ will work towards that.
“We need development in terms of academic facilities, which would then translate to employment of locals. All along locals have been losing out because there are no colleges in Matabeleland North hence companies recruit students elsewhere who end up getting the available jobs,” said Mr Maseko.
Besides accommodation, Wild Horizons also operates Lookout Café, the only restaurant with a view of the gorge and specialises in lunches when everyone is focusing on dinners. Mr Maseko said the company was able to cope with demand and always strategises for clients.
Wild Horizons is also active in community development where it had over the years donated to charity, wildlife management, anti-poaching as well as running a wildlife trust where orphaned and injured wildlife is treated and taken care of with schoolchildren being taken in for educational interactions free of charge every Friday.