by Shame Makoshori
THE last time I stayed at the Elephant Hills Resort in December 2010 I had a completely horrible experience. The whole five days were filled with disappointments. I returned to Harare and lodged a bitter complaint with African Sun Limited chief executive officer, Shingi Munyeza, whose group controls Elephant Hills, frankly telling him that I had received the treatment that I would expect at a police station, or the mediocrity that our citizens endure at the passport office.
Back then, three years ago, I had touched down at Victoria Falls International Airport exhausted and hungry, and longing for a refreshing bath and rest at the Elephant Hills, until then my favourite hotel. But I arrived to be confronted by horror.
In the first place, they insisted I had not been booked, yet I had confirmed my details 12 hours earlier. And after one and half hours of painstaking effort, waiting and frustration, a room was made available for me. I had to be moved from room 250 to room 538 — a first floor apartment overlooking picturesque, green indigenous trees.
So I laboured through the steps, my 14 kilogramme bag in hand, only to face even more astonishment. The locking system was not working. I had to try again and again and again and again, only for someone to unlock the door from inside. Unbeknown to me, a Democratic Republic of Congo national had already been booked into the same room. I felt stupid. It was the first time I had been given hell-like reception by a hotel.
So I had to endure the wrath of the heavy load, again, down to beg for another room. But things have now changed; there is so much energy, enthusiasm and unconditional hospitality at Elephant Hills today. The hotel has evolved, and in many ways, for the better.
After getting a string of assurances from Munyeza that he was taking my complaints seriously, this is what I was keen to see when I arrived at the hotel on Febraury 27 this year. They sprung into action once we arrived. They literally took over our lives, making the passage through the administrative process smooth, and following through to the rooms where I personally received exceptional orientation.
At each and every stage of the booking process, staff were ready to assist, with enquiries streaming through every minute to see if I was comfortable. It was the complete opposite of the belligerence that I saw in 2010. I had had reservations about food at Elephant Hills, but while I still feel there is still room to improve, the strides that they have made are astounding. They are now ready to do serious hoteling.
This is how it should be in a industry that is battling to improve occupancies following years of turmoil. Elephant Hills, in particular, has a key historical significance in our country. It will be criminal to undermine its rich history.
Flashback 1977: nationalist forces, at the height of their destabilisation projects to dislodge the imperialist Smith regime, fired at Elephant Hills from Zambia, causing untold destruction, and emotional suffering on the colonialists. It was our triumph.
Fast foward 1981: government fast-tracks its reconstruction for Queen Elizabeth II's visit during the Commonwealth Heads of State and Government summit. In March 2009, the first meeting of the Government of National Unity would take place at the hotel.