by Greg Penfold

Legend in the making

New classic hotel to grace Victoria Falls

Dr_Mati_Nyazema.jpg

When Mati Nyazema announced her intention of curtailing a successful corporate hospitality career in favour of building a new hotel at Zimbabwe’s Victoria Falls, the most frequent reaction among her friends and peers was incredulity.

“People thought I was crazy,” she smiles. “It was 2016, and Zimbabwe wasn’t exactly anyone’s idea of a great place to invest at the time.”

It must have been the instincts nurtured by 30 years of tourism and hospitality experience, including involvement in global travel companies and hotel start-ups in several African countries, that enabled Nyazema to see a shining opportunity where others did not.

“Victoria Falls tourism wasn’t doing very well then overall,” Nyazema observes. With occupancy rates as low as 25% in the traditional big hotels, Victoria Falls was far from realising its potential. However, Nyazema discerned that there was one market segment that was staying away not for want of appetite for the kind of experience that the famous world heritage site has to offer, but simply because their needs were not being met: the high-end luxury market.

“The high-end clients vising Southern and East Africa are currently staying in suites at top hotels and exclusive game lodges in South Africa, Botswana, Kenya, Namibia, Mozambique and Tanzania,” says Nyazema. “However, when it comes to Victoria Falls, there isn’t much in the way of bespoke, quality product to complement their stay.”

Thus was sown the seed of Mbano Manor Hotel Victoria Falls

“Our vision is to cater for the top-end of the international market with an upmarket and deluxe offering,” explains Nyazema , a former Director at Tsogo Sun Group. We aim to cultivate and safeguard the unique, exclusive and bespoke nature of the Mbano Manor Hotel, to become the luxury Victoria Falls destination of choice.”

Set in an ancient teak tree forest only four kilometres away from the Falls themselves, adjacent to Zambezi National Park, the hotel will offer both world-class hospitality and the privacy to commune with nature, along with the river safaris, helicopter safaris, river rafting and other adventure activities for which Victoria Falls is justly famous. The anticipated rates are from $950 per person per night sharing, for full board (including accommodation, meals, beverage and transfers).

However unlikely an investment prospect the Mbano Manor Hotel may have seemed in 2016, Nyazema’s vision has been vindicated, as the new-found optimism reigning in Zimbabwe has already resulted in an uptick in international and domestic tourism figures. At the same time, the Zimbabwe government has embarked on the development of a national tourism sector strategy seeking to increase tourist arrivals to seven million from the current 2.4 million and grow tourism export earnings to $7 billion from $1 billion. With the hotel set to open in early 2019, the timing to coincide with this wave of growth couldn’t have been more perfect.

“Recent reports indicate that the global luxury hotels market continues to expand, characterised by high-end experiences. People are choosing to spend their money on experiences that create memories. At Mbano, we have designed our product and guest experiences to embrace the latest trends, such as responsible tourism, perceptive dining, and a simple focus on rest and a pronounced sleep experience,” says Nyazema.

Nature has played a prominent role in the development of the hotel. Buildings were carefully positioned to ensure minimal disruption of the ancient forest – and the wildlife has begun to take an interest: “At the Mbano site, as we develop the hotel, we delight in daily sightings of wildlife – mostly during evenings – as they stroll past,” says Nyazema. “In the first three months of construction, we were already visited by four of the Big Five – lion, elephant, buffalo, leopard.”

Greg Penfold

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