THERE may be concern about the dwindling volume of water in Lake Kariba, but tourism operators in the resort town are smiling this festive season.
Business is brisk, as is expected at this time of the year when people take the opportunity to relax and catch up with friends and family.
Kariba town has registered full bookings in all lodges, hotels, houseboats and game drives, officials say. Kariba Tourism and Business Indaba administrator Cephas Shonhiwa said many tourists had made pre-bookings ahead of the festive season.
‘‘I can confirm that all lodges are fully booked during the festive season. The geographical position of Kariba makes it the best destination from anyone travelling from Harare as it is accessible even by road,” said Shonhiwa.
He said besides cashing in on well-known activities like boat cruises, fishing and game drives, tour operators have been innovative of late.
‘‘Our operators have introduced para-sailing, quad bikes and show line bird watch that is a new package for our tourists. We applaud tour operators who continue giving clients value for money whenever they visit the resort town so that it remains the better place for a family outing,’’ he said.
Shonhiwa said most bookings are between 23 December and 2 January. ‘‘The pre-booking is a good sign and positive for the tourism sector that has suffered from the 2020 national Covid-19 lockdowns among other economical challenges of late,’’ he said.
Shonhiwa, however, appealed to the government to make urgent action in rehabilitating the Harare-Chirundu highway that remains a “death trap” for travellers.
‘‘Our Harare-Chirundu highway is the biggest letdown as it has been neglected of late with many potholes that have not been attended to. With the continued rains, our clients will be affected. Poor road network is one of our challenges, and as a sector we are appealing to the government to act on repairing the potholes along the highway as we don’t have any scheduled flight from Harare to Kariba,’’ said Shonhiwa.
Houseboat operators have also experienced brisk business.
‘‘The houseboats’ bookings are pegged between 80 and 90% and this is a positive drive for tourism sector,’’ said Shonhiwa.
The houseboats range from the budget category to middle and high end. ‘‘In Kariba we have Zambezi Trader that can accommodate at least 54 people at one go. We have had Zimbabwe Dream and Africa Dream, among others,’’ he said.
The resort town has introduced a ferry that transports clients to different areas. ‘‘The ferry boat is currently transporting people together with vehicles. As we speak, it is carrying people to Mlibizi island and its one of the facilities helping our clients,’’ said Shonhiwa.
Kariba Publicity Association vice-chairperson Mabhena Mutumwa said he is happy that a large number of tourists are driving into the resort town to enjoy the beauty of nature.
‘‘Some of the travellers will see lions along the way and it’s a good gesture from the resort town as the majority of them are driving, and the festive seems to be fully packed. I can see the town showing life again, with all lodges full, regarding activities it’s going to be busy,’’ said Mutumwa.
He said there is a possibility that game drives will be done thrice a day: at 6am, 10am and 4pm.
‘‘We will be trading on lunch cruises and sunset cruises, in addition to fishing. This is a positive sign for everyone here as the sector is interlinked where everyone will benefit during the festive season,’’ Mutumwa added.
The tourism sector operators are hoping to see a return to the good old days when the sector provided significant income and jobs.