By Lovemore Ranga Mataire
Despite Zimbabwe’s prevailing economic challenges, some pockets of excellence still remain visible with Meikles Hotel recently coming out tops as the country’s best city hotel at the prestigious Association of Zimbabwean Travel Agents (AZTA) 2016 awards ceremony held in Harare.
The 100-year-old hotel has won each year since the introduction of the awards in 1991.
Meikles Hotel was one of the two dozen recipients of trophies at the event attended by more than 250 operators from across the travel and tourism sector.
The award for the Best international airline went to Emirates, which got the first prize, followed by South African Airways and Ethiopian Airways.
Emirates flies daily from Harare to Lusaka and Dubai. Members of the Emirates sales team in Zimbabwe received the award on behalf of the airline.
BA Comair, South African Airways and Air Zimbabwe took the first, second and third prizes for the best regional airline respectively while the best offline carrier went to Qatar with Virgin Atlantic and British Airways getting the second and third prizes respectively.
Wild Horizons scooped the best ground handler award while Shearwater and Nyati Travel were tied at second place with Wilderness Safaris getting the third place.
Shuttle Tours was voted the best tour operator with Nyati Travel and Premier Holidays getting the second place while Armadillo got the third trophy. The best service provider was awarded to Travelport, with the second place going to Amadeus while Hahn Air was voted the third best.
The best car hire went to Europcar followed by Avis and Hertz while the environmental award went to Environment Africa.
Wendy Bourne was awarded the voluntary service to the industry.
Best bed and breakfast/ guest house was Amanzi Lodge, followed by Wild Geese and Hornbill Lodge while the best self-catering venue was Lokuthula Lodges, Classic Africa and Forever Africa Safaris.
Victoria Falls Safaris Club was voted the best boutique hotel with the Victoria Falls Safari Lodge being voted the best resort hotel followed by The Victoria Falls Hotel and A’Zambezi River Lodge.
Cresta Lodge and Monomotapa Hotels scooped the second and third place for best city hotels.
Newly elected AZTA chairperson, Betty Katiyo said although the awards were held to honour outstanding players in the sector, she regarded every tourism operator as a winner for having stayed the course of the challenging time in the country’s economy.
She urged players to continue working towards growth and operational success.
“We are going through particularly challenging economic times in our country’s history and for our businesses to stay operational and positive and to remain true to themselves in support of the travel and tourism, it is both remarkable and commendable that we find time to gather here and that we are striving as an industry to keep our heads above the water.
And we should support each other and keep on going because good times are coming,” said Katiyo.
She said the awards ceremony was testimony of the resilience of players in the travel and tourism sector who, despite the economic challenges, have strived to remain ethical and efficient.
According to Katiyo, it’s very important for the members to set up roles, while the ARZTA committee ensures that those roles and responsibilities are executed. She said her organisation will be working in partnership with the Zimbabwe Council for Tourism (ZCT) and its affiliate associations. ARZTA, Katiyo said, had the added responsibility of helping travel agencies operate with efficiency and integrity.