Enacy Mapakame Business Reporter
Listed hospitality group, African Sun Limited will commit a significant amount of capital this current financial year towards sprucing the image of its hotels as it repositions itself for the anticipated tourism rebound.
The group has indicated one of its focus areas is enhancing guest experience and consolidating its market share.
At Troutbeck Resort alone, an investment of US$1,8 million is expected to be made towards refurbishment works which commenced during the past financial year.
“Troutbeck Resort is already under refurbishment which is expected to reposition the hotel to give the best guest experience while firmly establishing the hotel as the hotel of choice in Nyanga.
“The refurbishment, which commenced in 2021 with a complete roof makeover, is expected to be concluded in 2022 when the hotel’s 100 rooms are refurbished. US$1,8 million investment is expected to be made in that regard,” said group chief executive officer Tinashe Saungweme in the group’s 2021 annual report.
Refurbishment of 47 rooms at The Victoria Falls Hotel is also progressing well and the works are expected to be completed during the second quarter of this year.
According to the group, preparatory work to carry out the refurbishment of eight additional rooms at Great Zimbabwe, including remedial works on the Hungwe Conference Centre, are at an advanced stage, with actual works scheduled to commence in this second quarter of the year.
Plans are also currently underway to refurbish rooms at Hwange Safari Lodge with mock-up rooms having been started. The first phase of the project, which targets 60 rooms, is expected to be completed in 2022.
During the 2021 financial year, the group also experienced challenges emanating from the adverse impacts of the Covid-19 pandemic which resulted in travel restrictions across the globe.
But the group’s city and country hotels segment remained resilient in the face of the ravages of Covid-19 and remained the cornerstone of the hotel business’ improved performance, contributing 63 percent to the group’s total hospitality revenue for the year. Its three Holiday Inn hotels, the Troutbeck Resort and the Monomotapa hotel fall under this segment.
The division achieved occupancy of 45 percent for the period under review, a 9-percentage point improvement from 36 percent achieved in the prior year.
According to the group, all of the hotels under this division recorded profits except for the Monomotapa hotel which was operating below break-even occupancy.
The main source of income for this division was mainly conferencing business from Government, quasi-Government, Non-Governmental Organisations (NGOs) and corporates. As the economy emerged from the lockdown period, conferencing business was understandably largely confined to city hotels relative to resort hotels.
Resort hotels, according to the group, were the hardest hit by the Covid-19 pandemic as they rely predominantly on international tourists.
The Elephant Hills Resort, the Kingdom at the Victoria Falls Hotel, the Hwange Safari Lodge, Caribbea Bay Resort, and the Great Zimbabwe Hotel fall under this segment.
On a positive note, all hotels in the division have been on a steady recovery, closing the year with an occupancy of 19 percent compared to 12 percent posted in the prior year largely driven by conferences and festive season business after the Government lifted inter provincial travel restrictions.
The segment’s focus was on the domestic market under the “Rediscover Zimbabwe” campaign that was the dominant travel theme during 2021 to promote domestic travel.
Mr Saungweme indicated the strategy was to counter the depressed international arrivals which resulted in the segment realizing only 7 percent of its room nights sold from international travellers relative to 55 percent realised in 2019.
The group remains optimistic that the fortunes of the resort hotels will gradually improve in 2022 as the international market further opens and offset the negative impacts felt in the prior year when international tourist arrivals in Zimbabwe decreased by 40 percent compared to 2020, and was 84 percent lower relative to the 2019 pre-pandemic period.
Resultantly, the tourism and hospitality sector was heavily anchored by the domestic market during 2021. International room nights for our hotels were 26 percent lower than last year according to the Zimbabwe Tourism Authority.