By Norma Tsopo
Sheltered against the mountain ridge of Cecil Kop and a strew of mountains, hillocks and ridges that form the periphery of the Bvumba Mountains – Mutare lies in a verdant valley with an undisputed claim to being the most picturesque city in the country.
Otherwise located in a tropical setting, it offers a fairer temperate climate hedged in by the mountains.
Being a spectacle in itself it was in order that the eastern border city it should have a hotel that matches its world-class status.
The rebranding of the five-storey mid-range Zimbabwe Sun Limited’s Amber Hotel back to Holiday Inn raised the bar for the city’s hospitality sector.
On face value, the hotel’s sleek view, smart rooms, free high-speed internet for all guests and its location in the central business district present it as exclusively designed for business travelers.
While indeed it offers the ideal environment for meetings, incentives, conferences and events (MICE) with four conference rooms – Vumba, Odzani, Murahwa and Mtarazi which have a seating capacity of 200, 60, 70 and 250 people respectively in theatre style.
This is more so as well because the city, Manicaland province’s capital, sees significant business activity across the forestry, citrus farming and mining industries.
But it would have been an unforgivable sin for the hotel to ignore leisure tourists after naming these business hubs to the attractions abounding around it.
Their packages ear testimony to this as children under 12 staying and eating for free as long as they do not exceed four per couple.
This then tilts the scales to allow it to claim, uncontested, the title of being the finest family hotel.
Seating right at the centre of the scenic city, the refurbished Holiday Inn is now an apt heartbeat of the Eastern Highlands’ tourist attractions and experiences.
Cecil Kop and Thompson’s Vlei under 10 minutes away, the misty Bvumba Mountains in all their splendour to the south easily accessible to the south, the regal Christmas Pass to the west going further to the mystic Inyangani Mountains and the majestic Mtarazi Falls, all within an hour’s drive the hotel is conveniently located to host any adventure seekers.
Chimanimani Mountains, Hot Springs and Chirinda Forest beckon further down and all within, two hours from the hotel.
This easy drive of the city is the added bonus of some of the most spectacular tourist attractions Zimbabwe has to offer.
Given its location, it allows culture tourists to interact and mingle with locals in their natural environment and experience the ambience of Zimbabwe’s third biggest city.
The city is also pregnant with the country’s history around how the southern African country was established by early European settlers as well as how the city has always been in the path of pre-colonial trade.
It has 96 immaculate rooms – 20 twin, 49 deluxe, four suites and 23 executive rooms, all superbly maintained.
Families can also request for interlinking rooms which would allow them to connect without having to get into the public passages.
The rooms have state-of-the-art air conditioning and coffee and tea making facilities, and satellite television for the homely comforts.
The fact that it is franchised by InterContinental Hotels Group (IHG) guarantees an internationally expected quality of service that can assure travelers who would not want to take a gamble with their comforts.
Its restaurant – Hotsprings, offers fine cuisine to accompany the all-round visitor experience.
The cozy Foresters Bar, a tribute to the surrounding forest areas, offers both locals and guests a great place to interact and unwind.
But it is not everyone who is cut out for the exertions the eastern highlands offer in rafting, sky-walking, hill-climbing, mountaineering or rafting.
Cognizant of this reality, the hotel offers special arrangements for use of nearby tennis courts, gymnasium, bowling green and an internationally celebrated 18-hole golf course.
This is a disability conscious facility which although it does not admit service animals or guide dogs would ensure that physically challenged guests have full access of the hotel through ramps, elevators, wheelchairs and porters for their convenience.
In line with global trends, it also no longer allows guests to smoke in rooms but now has designated smoking areas guaranteeing that no unpleasant tobacco smell would linger behind and inconvenience non-smoking visitors.