Kariba: The gem that needs polishing

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Chipo Sabeta recently in KARIBA
Lake Kariba is special, a place of stunning beauty that has been nature lovers’ dream for decades, if not centuries.

But the tourist destination has been receiving limited foreign visitors of late, and some of its hospitality infrastructure has become somewhat dilapidated.

The Kariba resort used to be the hive of activity over the past decades, but without the requisite attention, the tourist attraction could lose some of its luster.

A recent visit to the destination by this writer revealed that it has become too sleepy for a tourist place and it is in dire need of re-branding.

Besides high costs on services, accommodation and recreation activities, the resort town is characterised by poor and dilapidated infrastructure of hotels, lodges, Government buildings among other important amenities.

Along Kariba Highway there were queues of hazard flashing light motor vehicles, which were forced off the road after losing tyres to the ever-widening potholes that have become a nightmare.

There is an increasing number of heavy duty trucks traversing a road that is well overdue for redesign and resurfacing.

There is also an ultra-dangerous winding bit of road 15 kilometre along the Makuti area where a small prayer is needed hoping you are not confronted by a large tanker bearing down on your side of the road as you surmount the hill.

In addition, there are no scheduled luxury coaches linking the tourist destination with the major cities/towns except kombi pick-up points.

All tourists have to endure the bad roads connectivity link.

At the present moment there are no direct flights between Harare and Kariba and the only local airline, Airzim stopped flights and a lack of direct flights between Zimbabwe and Kariba’s key source markets have further hindered tourism development in the area.

Kariba recently hosted the annual Lake Harvest Kariba Marathon and throughout the four days, the Heroes Holiday was affected by frequent power cuts.

Quite the irony when Kariba produces electricity for the whole country, why not spare a few megawatts for the town.

Residents complain they pay for electricity even though they do not have it in most cases. It has become ’normal’ having interrupted power supply in Kariba, that generate 1005 Megawatts.

For that reason, fuel service stations remain idle since they rely on electricity.

It also means a cold shower for tourists, some who cannot do without warm water.

Kariba has lost its luster and is now characterized by dead street lights, burst sewer pipes, inconsistent running taps though the place is home to billions of litres of water trapped by the might Kariba Dam wall.

Some streets in Nyamhunga locations have been turned into an open air market.

There are no food courts in Kariba.

Yes, and very few lively braai joints and forms of night entertainment. Activities like boat cruises, fishing, game drive, site seeing are limited to day time.

Mosquitoes didn’t make life any easier. The walls in the hotels were covered in little black dots of mosquito remains from previous residents trying to rid their room of the insects.

Hospitality Association of Zimbabwe (HAZ) president Innocent Manyera, admitted that Kariba has been sidelined and he is appealing to the Government to give equal support for Kariba to reclaim its lost pride.

There is huge potential in Kariba.

“Kariba has been low and indeed since the drop in leisure market. The drive has been from conference activities. Operators are trying level best to create activity that will make business viable. It is our hope and prayer the operators in Kariba will access the $15 million tourism fund to maintain products to interest of travellers,” he said.

Manyera added: “We have been calling on Government to also look at the destination in terms of promoting it. The president for Zimbabwe Council for Tourism in his speech during the 30 anniversary celebration on the 25th of August 2018 recommended to the Minister of Tourism and Hospitality Industries Mai (Prisca) Mupfumira to take the challenge of promoting other destinations besides Vic Falls, he said.

Besides the Victoria Falls and Kariba, Manyera recommend that the promotion of alternative tourist destinations in remote areas with high values of cultural, wildlife and landscape assets be taken as priority for the country.

“Tourism should be the whole of Zimbabwe not one in Victoria Falls only. The minister in return promised the industry to make effort in the creation of opportunities for Kariba and other destinations. Roads network for domestic tourism need to be addressed as well as air connectivity.”

“Government initiated conferences should also be hosted in rotation across the country’s destinations in order for them to benefit all. The Ministry and Zimbabwe Tourism Authority have been trying by all means to promote domestic tourism and with the support of discounted rates from the industry, this will be a possibility.

“The setting up of directorates to do with policy guidance on domestic tourism will make all destinations benefit.

“Talk of Great Zimbabwe, Kariba, Chinhoyi, Eastern Highlands, Matopos among others,” he added.

Whilst the private sector is also needed to upgrade the tourist products through refurbishment, re-engineering and in some cases through complete over-haul, a local resident put the blame on people in higher authorities.

A tourist, Tapindwa Chipunza, said the Government should intervene with different packages to ensure tourism revival.

“There is  need for looking at the policy environment around the tourism sector in Zimbabwe, its contribution to the economy, key constraints to tourism growth and why tourists have shied away from Kariba.

“The Ministry of Tourism and Hospitality Industry and the private sector need to put in place short term training programmes aimed at training and equipping different players in the tourism industry.

This requires everyone’s support. It is noble for the Government to engage international partners like the United Nations World Tourism Organisation (UNWTO) and International Labour Organisation (ILO) to provide it with resources to operationalise the programme,” he said.

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