Covid-19 hits  renowned  tourism centre

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Austin Karonga
Staff Writer
karongaa@dailynewsonsunday.co.zw    
DESPITE over two decades of love for the wild and tourism industry, coronavirus has dealt a blow to businesses hinged on free travel, says Jason Turner, general manager for tourism at the award-winning Singita Pamushana Lodge in Malilangwe Wildlife Reserve, Chiredzi.
“The Covid-19 pandemic has had a drastic impact on our business due to the travel restrictions that have understandably been put in place around the globe,” Turner told the Daily News on Sunday.
“We’ve been fortunate to have very few cancellations and most of our bookings have been postponed to later in the year and into 2021. Like most safari businesses, we have no guests at this time due to lockdowns and travel bans.

 

 

 

The Covid-19 pandemic puts conservation under enormous pressure. If tourism collapses, it could have a negative impact on conservation.
“In peak season, guides are busy from early morning, until late at night. In the quieter season, there is more time to participate in other aspects of the wildlife management of the reserve, like assisting the ecology team with managed burns, wildlife data collection and, of course, some time to rejuvenate ahead of the next busy season.”
Coronavirus comes hard on the heels of The Malilangwe Trust filming a marketing video putting Zimbabwe on the map as far as tourism is concerned.
The video, starring one of the tourism outfit’s professional guides, Time Mutema, was produced by Singita. Singita Pamushana has a team of eight Zimbabwean qualified professional guides, according to Turner.
“At Singita Pamushana, we are part of The Malilangwe Trust whose mandate is to protect and preserve the wildlife and ecosystems in this reserve,” said Turner.

 

On the other hand, the general manager for tourism said Singita Pamushana was helping upcoming guides to get professional qualifications.
“At Singita Pamushana there is a guide and tracker relationship where each professional guide is assisted by a tracker from our neighbouring communities,” Turner said.
“This programme not only enables our team to deliver an exceptional guest experience, but also forms a mentor/mentee relationship between guide and tracker. This helps us develop skills for our trackers to take on the challenge of qualifying to become a Zimbabwean Learner Guide and ultimately progress to becoming a professional guide.”
 “After the launch of this feature on Time (Mutema), we saw an initial pick up of requests for him to be the allocated Singita guide. However, all our guides at Singita Pamushana are equally capable professionals and deliver an exceptional experience to our discerning guests.”
Like many other businesses worldwide, Malilangwe and Singita Pamushana have been involved in efforts to fight off coronavirus in the community.
“Firstly, our staff are most important to us during this pandemic. Furthermore, we are assisting wherever we can in the community, and have donated sanitiser to the district taskforce and we are in the process of procuring PPEs for use within the district structures,” added Turner.
“Early on, we distributed educational pamphlets describing best practices to follow in mitigation of the spread of coronavirus. The Malilangwe Trust installed a solar pump unit in a nearby vegetable growing project, where 21 women work to produce vegetables for self-consumption and sale. This will mean they’re able to plant their seedlings during this key part of the season.”
Despite the rather gloomy outlook currently faced by the safari business in the wake of coronavirus, Turner is optimistic about the future.
“I have been in the hospitality business for 25 years now and I hope to continue to add valuable experiences  to others for at least another 25,” he said.
The overall business venture, he said, is not only the lodge, but is driven by an overall mandate in conservation and community work through The Malilangwe Trust, a non-profit Zimbabwean Trust.
“The partnership with Singita brings much needed high-end tourism (as our chosen commercial arm) to provide a revenue stream for the broader operation,” Turner said.
“Singita Pamushana Lodge has nine suites and we have a 5-bedroom exclusive-use villa, called Malilangwe House.”
Singita Pamushana Lodge is also home to the world renowned big five that has proven to be a major selling point over the years.
“Our guests are encouraged to enjoy game drives, bush walks, fishing, boat cruises, rock art trips, and visits to our community projects,” said Turner.
“At the lodge, guests enjoy the ambience and views over Malilangwe Dam, exceptional dining, wellness treatments, and a great selection of wines from our cellar but above all the personalised attention from our committed and highly-trained staff.”
He added that the overall experience offered to guests is combined with a 100-year purpose to protect and preserve large areas of African wilderness for future generations which is what attracts visitors to Singita time and again.

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