HARARE, Feb 13 - The once dilapidated Harare Safari Lodge last year re-opened to the public after undergoing a $50 million recapitalisation and refurbishment programme. The lodge is located about 25 minutes' drive from Harare on the Bulawayo road.
The once popular safari facility was shut down for a year to enable new owners to spruce it up.
In an interview Harare Safari Lodge general manager Lawrence Nyamuziwa said a consortium of indigenous businessmen had invested about $50 million in the lodge and were targeting local conference delegates.
Nyamuziwa said: "The refurbishment programme is now complete and we are open to the public. We are mainly looking at local conference delegates who want to get away from the hustle and bustle of Harare and prefer a quiet location. After that we will target the regional and then the international markets."
The refurbished lodge enters the tourism industry at a time when Zimbabwe's industry is facing problems caused by the country's economic and political downturn.
Tourists have begun to shun Zimbabwe, preferring to visit neighbouring countries such as South Africa and Zambia instead.
The tourism sector, which had grown to be a major foreign currency earner in Zimbabwe, declined due to negative international perception of the country, erratic energy supplies and lack of resources to aggressively market the country's tourist products.
Although occupancy rates for Zimbabwe's hotels remained below 50% in 2002, there was a marginal increase when compared to 2001.
Industry officials said the increase in occupancy rates reflected the growth in "domestic" and "regional" tourism.
"We are trying to revive and build confidence in local tourism by offering something different," Nyamuziwa said during a tour of the facility. "The works carried out include a complete refurbishment of all rooms, public areas, conference facilities and activity equipment. We also provide a new menu of aqua safari and leisure package all tailor-made to suit the discerning convectors and holiday-makers."
He said Harare Safari Lodge offered conferencing experience varying from eight and 24-hour packages tailor-made for delegates.
The lodge comprises of six furnished rock and thatch double storey lodges all ensuite, nestled between indigenous trees and lawns.
There are two self-catering lodges for those who prefer preparing their own meals.
The lodge also offers 12 double rooms ideal for conferences and leisure accommodation.
Activities at the lodge include boat cruises on Lake Chivero, canoeing,
fishing, safari drives, and walking safaris all guided by professionally trained guides.
Nyamuziwa said horse rides could be arranged by the lodge to view a variety of plains, game and rock paintings.
"Adjoining the lodge on the southern boundary is an 800-hectare bird sanctuary where our experienced guides will be willing to share their knowledge on the local flora and fauna of the area with you," Nyamuziwa said. "The sanctuary has a unique environment offering 450 species of birds - one of the highest in Africa."