A LOCAL investor has invested US$1,5 million towards construction of a new upmarket lodge in Matetsi area -- 40km outside Victoria Falls.
The new facility, Motsamai Safari Lodge, will cater for both domestic and international clients and is a sister unit to Motsamai Lodge in Bulawayo, which is run by the Bhebhe family.
Environment, Climate, Tourism and Hospitality Industry Minister Nqobizitha Mangaliso Ndlovu visited the new lodge recently to appreciate developments that have taken place so far on site.
Motsamai Safari Lodge is located on a 1 600ha piece of land leased from the Forestry Commission after the operator partnered with the commission to maximise productivity.
The facility is strategically located on an escapement and will be made up of eight detached apartments facing a vlei and waterhole.
Four apartments, all designed by Mr Thabo Bhebhe, are almost complete while the proprietors hope to finish the whole project set to be finished by end of January next year.
The facility director, Mr Thokozani Bhebhe, said the future is bright for Zimbabwe's tourism hence the decision to invest in a new lodge to give an alternative affordable accommodation.
"We have so far started construction of all rooms and a reception area. We are 80 percent done with four chalets already up and we expect to be done around the end of January," he said.
"So far, we have invested around US$500 000 and the whole project is expected to be worth US$1,5 million," said Mr Bhebhe.
He said the lodge could have opened in June had it not been for the disruptive effects of Covid-19 that affected a cross section of the economy.
"The outlook is bright. We are excited about how Victoria Falls is changing. We could be open by now if wasn't for Covid-19. With limitations on travel, our main focus will be local clients and then we will slowly rope in international clients as borders reopen," said Mr Bhebhe.
"There is a lot of excitement especially with Victoria Falls, which was traditionally inaccessible for locals. We want to break that barrier.
"We are going to have rates for locals to cater for domestic tourism."
He said the lodge would employ 15 full time workers with about 10 and an extra 10 on part time basis during peak periods.
The Bhebhe family also operates a conservancy in Matabeleland South besides the 20-bedroomed Motsamai Lodge in Bulawayo, which the family plans to convert into a boutique hotel.
The business has, however, not been spared by the impact of economic challenges such as lack of funding and price fluctuations.
Managing director, Mrs Cecilia Bhebhe, said the facility was environmentally friendly as the rooms are semi-permanent made up of fiberglass and canvas material while bricks are at the back wall.
She bemoaned delays in progress as a result of Covid-19, after a lease with Forestry Commission signed in November 2018 and the Environment Impact Assessment done in October last year.
The lodge will be hiring locals with villagers from the nearby community already contracted to cut thatch grass from Kazuma Forest.