Tourism players battle overhead costs
Leonard Ncube, Victoria Falls Reporter
Tourism operators are battling overhead costs with no new income being generated, as lockdown measures to mitigate against the spread of Covid-19 continue.
One of Victoria Falls’ most upmarket eateries, Lookout Cafe, is going through such an experience, but has high hopes for the future and is working on strategies to reposition its operations beyond the pandemic.
The facility is being operated by Wild Horizons, one of the leading tour operating companies in the country, which employs close to 100 locals. The facility resumed business last year in December following extensive refurbishment after being gutted by fire one Christmas Eve in 2018 where property worth thousands of dollars was destroyed.
With eateries being some of the top facilities on travellers’ shopping list, the ban on international travel dealt a heavy blow to the business, as no tourists are coming since March.
Wild Horizons chief executive Mr Gary Archer said focus has been on clearing all perishable stock, which would have gone to waste because of the lockdown. He said the cafe has, however, managed to maintain its staff at least for now although mostly on reduced salaries.
“The Lookout Café closed its doors at the start of the lockdown period. Since then there has been zero revenue generated while maintaining all overhead costs of the restaurant.
“In the current environment a number of measures have been put in place, which include selling off perishable food and beverage stock items to reduce inventory levels.
“All power supply items in the form of gas lines, water lines and electrical points have been switched off to reduce overhead costs, “ said Mr Archer.
He said the company has come up with comprehensive standard operating procedures for post Covid-19 travel.
“Currently all restaurants are closed countrywide for sit-in diners. While we wait for our ministry to issue the greenlight to open the restaurants, we also look to see when the borders may open with flights returning to Victoria Falls.
“The restaurant will initially look to open for lunch trade, followed by dinner service once the tourism numbers begin to rise. We are conducting in house training programmes with our staff, to ensure we keep them in top form,” Mr Archer said.
To prepare itself for reopening, the business has maintained the evergreen garden with a number of herbs and vegetables planted. Maintenance and décor work has been carried out at the facility along with scheduled deep cleaning cycles and fogging, explained Mr Archer.
“Wild Horizons permanent staff are still employed, albeit on reduced wages. We are in regular discussion with our staff and will react as the environment requires. We are very mindful of the difficult times staff and their families are going through during the Covid-19 pandemic.
“Our aim is to still provide quality food and beverages at the Lookout Café and while we are confident that the tourism and trade numbers will increase organically, we are fully aware and compliant with the regulations and guidelines stated by Government and the World Health Organisation to provide a safe environment for our diners to enjoy their experience with us, “ he said.— @ncubeleon