Nqobile Tshili, Chronicle Reporter
VILLAGERS in Masendu area in Bulilima District, Matabeleland South, have transformed their homesteads into mini-lodges that offer catering and accommodation services to tourists.
The creative and innovative village tourism model has not only enhanced cultural exchanges but is now a source of income for villagers.
The villagers who have received training on hospitality, are using their homes to generate money under what they have called “Votels”, a term that combines two words – village and hotel. Villagers in Bulilima and Mangwe district are known for constructing modern homes and many of them have electricity and running water hence there were no challenges in converting the homes into lodges.
The votels are busy when the village hosts local festivals such as the Masendu Cultural Festival which attracts guests from as far as Europe, America and South Africa.
What the enterprising villagers are doing is inline with rural industrialisation as enunciated by the Second Republic. A Chronicle news crew recently visited Masendu village and spoke to beneficiairies of the votels.
One of the villagers, Mrs Mkhuleko Nleya, said the establishment of votels was prompted by high demand for tourists accommodation.
“This area will soon be developed into a Growth Point hence we are gearing for such development by providing accommodation to visitors,” said Mrs Nleya.
She said some of the income from votels was being used to take care of the vulnerable such as orphans.
Mrs Nleya said visitors pay $100 per night and 10 percent of the revenue goes towards care for the vulnerable.
“Visitors can decide to cook for themselves or may ask us to prepare the meals for them and they pay for the service,” she said.
Mrs Nleya said most visitors were from Plumtree, Bulawayo, Lupane and some were National University of Science and Technology (Nust) lecturers who would be conducting research in the community.
She said in some cases guests would stay for as long as three months.
Mrs Nleya said the votels have enabled them to provide the outside world with a glimpse of the Kalanga lifestyle.
She said during their stay, some of the guests learnt the culture of the people of Masendu Village.
“I remember we had a guest from Europe who came and stayed for a very long time with us. I think it was for three months. The person would do daily routines with us. I remember I was preparing round nuts (indlubu) one day and she was interested in knowing how we cook them,” said Mrs Nleya.
Votels chairperson, Mrs Florence Dube, said the initiative was prompted by the need to generate income.
“We realised we could generate money from our houses by providing accommodation and other services. People come from as far as KwaZulu Natal to participate in our cultural festivals hence this decision to host them,” she said.
Mrs Dube said there were 35 registered votel owners.
She said votels had improved their livelihoods as owners were now able to fend for their families.
“This has enabled us to buy groceries and other basics for our families,” said Mrs Dube.
She said most guests preferred accommodation in thatched houses.
Chief Masendu’s secretary Mr Freeman Dube said the votels have attracted people from as far as Australia.
Zimbabwe Tourism Authority head of corporate affairs Mr Godfrey Koti said Government supports the votels concept as part of the rural and domestic tourism initiatives.
He said the votels fall within the same bracket as Amagugu International Heritage Centre and many beautiful homes in Matobo and similar projects being developed elsewhere.
Mr Koti said ZTA has also been involved in capacity building so that members involved get value for their products and services.
“The village tourism is gaining traction across the board hence it will be part of the exhibits during the forthcoming Sanganai/Hlanganani Tourism Expo to be hosted by Bulawayo this month,” he said.–@nqotshili
Article Source: The Chronicle