Tiger fish­ing tour­ney on re­cov­ery path:

The Sunday Mail (Zimbabwe) - - FRONT PAGE - Prince Mushaw­e­vato in Kariba

IM­PROVED wa­ter lev­els, ad­di­tional house­boats, in­creased num­ber of par­tic­i­pat­ing teams and high morale char­ac­terised the 57th edi­tion of the Kariba In­vi­ta­tion Tiger Fish­ing Tour­na­ment (KITFT).

The num­ber of teams that took part in the just ended pres­ti­gious com­pe­ti­tion stands at 79, up from 56 in the pre­vi­ous year. This devel­op­ment comes as a re­sult of an im­proved busi­ness en­vi­ron­ment that has been cre­ated by the new po­lit­i­cal dis­pen­sa­tion.

Last year, KITFT hit an all-time low in terms of reg­is­tra­tion and par­tic­i­pa­tion of teams with or­gan­is­ers at­tribut­ing the sce­nario to a num­ber of fac­tors. Chief among cited draw­backs was heavy po­lice pres­ence on the roads, high ZimParks fees and im­mi­gra­tion chal­lenges.

How­ever, most of the chal­lenges have been ad­dressed as Zimbabwe con­tin­ues to show that it is in­deed open for busi­ness. For in­stance, The Sun­day Mail So­ci­ety crew that trav­elled for the tour­na­ment from Harare only came across two road­blocks, com­pared to more than eight in 2017.

ZimParks fees have also been re­viewed down­wards fol­low­ing fruit­ful en­gage­ments be­tween the two stake­hold­ers. ZimParks are cus­to­di­ans of the tiger fish.

KITFT di­rec­tor Rod Ben­net con­firmed the event has im­proved this year, although he notes more still needs to be done for the event to fur­ther re­gain lost ground. At its peak, KITFT would at­tract at least 250 par­tic­i­pat­ing teams.

“We have 79 par­tic­i­pat­ing teams this year, which is bet­ter than last year and we want the fig­ure to con­tinue grow­ing,” said Ben­net.

Last year, the fish did not bite, but there were high hopes among an­glers this time around. Dried-up parts of Lake Kariba had wa­ter, which in turn broad­ened the catch­ment area.

Ac­cord­ingly, most of the an­glers be­lieved a catch of 10kg-plus to land the grand prize of a brand new Isuzu KB250 Fleet­side truck was pos­si­ble.

But the re­quired grand prize catch had not come through by the time of go­ing to print, which was end of the sec­ond day of the tour­na­ment. The clos­est bite weighed 9,4kg, fol­lowed by an­other one from Air Force of Zimbabwe (AFZ) team, weigh­ing 8,4kg.

“I’m dis­ap­pointed we have nar­rowly missed the grand prize although I re­main hope­ful that we will walk away with the truck by end of this tour­na­ment,” said AFZ cap­tain, Mas­ter Sgt Kelvin Manyan­gadze.

Or­gan­is­ers in­stalled track­ers on par­tic­i­pants’ boats to avoid cheat­ing. There were cases of teams that used to get their catch close to the Lake Har­vest Breed­ing Site, which is against the com­pe­ti­tion rule that stip­u­lates that an­glers must op­er­ate at least 100m away from the breed­ing area.

Par­tic­i­pat­ing teams in­cluded lo­cals and those drawn from dif­fer­ent parts of the world. In­creased air con­nec­tiv­ity to Kariba could help boost in­ter­est in the tour­na­ment.

Gov­ern­ment has al­ready in­di­cated that it in­tends to ex­pand Kariba Air­port so that it matches in­ter­na­tional stan­dards and is able to at­tract rep­utable air­lines to the des­ti­na­tion. Zimbabwe is cur­rently ex­pe­ri­enc­ing re­newed in­ter­ests in tourism, es­pe­cially from tra­di­tional source mar­kets like Bri­tain, Ja­pan, Ger­many and the United States.

How­ever, it is Vic­to­ria Falls that has re­ceived a huge chunk of the tourists due to easy ac­ces­si­bil­ity (through air), although des­ti­na­tions like Kariba ar­guably have more to of­fer in terms of tourism.

KITFT, which is one of Zimbabwe’s largest pri­vate sec­tor-driven tourism win­dow, has been in­stru­men­tal in keep­ing Kariba on tourism lime­light over the years. Ho­tel and lodge oc­cu­pancy dur­ing the tour­na­ment is usu­ally full to ca­pac­ity.

“We are a wholly owned Gov­ern­ment paras­tatal but we are not get­ting fund­ing from the fis­cus. Events like KITFT help us gen­er­ate rev­enue over the three-day pe­riod. There is also what they call pre-event bait­ing in which par­tic­i­pants pay while oth­ers will ex­tend their stay af­ter the tour­na­ment.

“Most of the teams that come for the tour­na­ment bring their fam­i­lies and they end up do­ing ac­tiv­i­ties like boat cruise and game view­ing. By pop­u­lar­is­ing the event through the me­dia, the event pro­motes the des­ti­na­tion for do­mes­tic and for­eign tourism,” noted ZimParks mar­ket­ing ex­ec­u­tive Peter Dh­lula.

Fuel chal­lenges that have been cre­ated in most parts of the coun­try due to panic buy­ing by mo­torists and il­le­gal fuel deal­ers did not dull the tiger fish­ing tour­na­ment.

In fact, the Charara Camp­site, where the an­nual fish­ing tour­na­ment is held, had enough fuel sup­ply for par­tic­i­pants and the gen­eral pub­lic that at­tended the event.

“There is no need to panic. We have enough stock for ev­ery­one for the du­ra­tion of the tour­na­ment. We have been open for busi­ness since the tour­na­ment started and there has been no shortages of fuel. All forms of pay­ment are be­ing ac­cepted,” said one of the site ser­vice sta­tion at­ten­dants.

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