Nonsikelelo Moyo, Business Reporter
THE Government is concerned about limited accommodation and conferencing facilities in Victoria Falls which makes the country’s prime tourist town inferior to other international destinations, a Cabinet Minister has said.
Speaking during the ground breaking ceremony of $13 million Sawanga Shopping Mall being built by Zimbabwe Reinsurance (Zimre) Property Investments in Victoria Falls on Friday, Tourism and Hospitality Industry Minister Prisca Mupfumira said Victoria Falls will face hotel accommodation challenges by 2020 if no new facilities are built.
“Currently, Victoria Falls is lagging behind other regional destinations such as Durban and Cape Town in terms of accommodation and conferencing as well as entertainment facilities,” she said. Victoria Falls has 1 781 rooms, of which 1 125 are in hotels and the remainder offered by guest houses and lodges. Residents have been turning their houses into lodges to cater for unmet demand.
“Victoria Falls is indeed under-hoteled. Going by the renewed confidence in destination Zimbabwe in general and Victoria Falls in particular, arising from visitor-friendly policies being implemented under the new era, the resort town is bound to run short of accommodation by year 2020,” she said.
The Minister noted the need to increase room capacity by not less than 1 500 by 2020 to cater for the anticipated increase in tourist arrivals.
The Government is also planning to build a convention and conference centre on a piece of land between Masue River and the Victoria Falls International Airport where there will be conference facilities, hotels, banks and amenities.
Minister Mupfumira said it was worrying that the resort town which the Government wants as its conferencing capital has no suitable facilities.
The only possibly big conference facility is at Elephant Hills Resort where about 500 delegates can be accommodated.
She said the Government is open for investment in the hospitality sector.
“Against this background, the need for increased investment in tourism facilities by both local and foreign investors needs not to be overemphasised,” she said.
Under the Government’s 100 Day Plan, Minister Mupfumira said her ministry would be convening consultative workshops to get stakeholder input on the National Tourism Sector Strategy (NTSS) development process in Harare, Bulawayo, Mutare, Chinhoyi, Masvingo and Victoria Falls.
The workshops begin this week, the first in Harare tomorrow with a view to developing a comprehensive approach to tourism.