Mzembi, Kaseke differ on UNWTO convention centre

HARARE - With just 10 months left before Zimbabwe co-hosts the United Nations World Tourism Organisation (UNWTO) general assembly with Zambia, government is yet to decide whether or not to construct a convention centre in the resort town of Victoria Falls.

While Zimbabwe Tourism Authority, ZTA chief executive Karikoga Kaseke has been on record saying the inclusive government was content to host the mega event on the basis of a temporary structure that will be erected on Africa Sun Limited’s Elephant Hills Resort golf course, there are political figures pushing for the construction of a new convention centre with a sitting capacity of up to 4 000 people.

Addressing a public lecture at the University of Zimbabwe last week, Tourism minister Walter Mzembi said it made no economic sense to host the international delegates in a marquee.

“There is a school of thought that is saying we should use a tent. This is an indication of a small vision. In 2010, South African government put everything on hold and concentrated on building world-class stadiums which will continue being a legacy in many years to come,” said Mzembi.

“You are faced with a similar event and all one can think of is (private events management company) Rooney’s. We pitch a tent and dismantle after the event, then what?” asked the Tourism minister.

“If those in decision-making at the time had decided against building Rainbow Towers Hotel to make use of a temporary structure (when Zimbabwe hosted the Non-Aligned Movement leaders’ summit 20 years ago), the country would have been losing on a lot of opportunities and revenue now.”

The new convention centre, he said, can still be built, but not in time for the event.

Kaseke said a viable option would be to build a semi-permanent structure for the event, and in line with Transport secretary Munesu Monodawafa’s recommendations, for government to build an aluminium glass fabrication structure which will last for up to 20 years.

Despite Mzembi’s call for the country to erect a permanent structure, Transport minister Nicholas Goche last week said infrastructural development was moving at a pleasing pace in the rest of the country except in Victoria Falls, the host town to the general assembly.

“I am impressed with the progress being made in Bulawayo and many towns including what I have seen here (at the Harare International Airport) except in Victoria Falls.

Progress has been slow and I do not know why,” said Goche during his tour of the country’s largest airport.

Kaseke recently announced Zimbabwe expects up to 2 000 delegates to attend the event next year.

At least 1 500 delegates attended the last general assembly in Korea.

Nkosilathi Jiyane, Victoria Falls mayor, says about 30 000 jobs are expected to be created with the construction of the tourism convention centre in Victoria Falls. -
Wendy Muperi

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