Victoria Falls — The Government plans to set up a $300 million world class theme park in Victoria Falls as a way of fully exploiting the resort town for the benefit of the economy, a Cabinet Minister has said.Named after the eighth wonder of the world, Victoria Falls town is already a major tourist destination but Government says it intends to ensure it also attracts and retains capital in the country.
Tourism and Hospitality Industry Minister Engineer Walter Mzembi told New Ziana that Government had acquired 1 200 hectares of land for construction of what he termed “Disneyland in Africa.”
Owned by Walt Disney, Disneyland is a theme park and major tourist attraction centre located in the United States which has since been replicated in other countries.
In 2011 over 16 million people visited Disneyland. Eng Mzembi said the Victoria Falls park would house among others shopping malls, banking, exhibition and entertainment facilities such as casinos.
“We have reserved 1 200 hectares of land closer to Victoria Falls International Airport to do hotels and convention centres,” he said on the sidelines of the United Nations World Tourism Organisation (UNWTO) general assembly being co-hosted by Zambia and Zimbabwe.
He said the investment would not disturb flora and fauna near the falls.
“The cost of the investment is about $300 million.”
Eng Mzembi said part of the plan was to ensure that the town of Victoria Falls, currently just a tourist zone, attracted and captured capital.
“We want to create a free zone with a banking centre where even people who do not necessarily live in Zimbabwe can open bank accounts there,” he said.
With Victoria Falls having already been declared a “cyber city”, Eng Mzembi said the Government had plans to expand the town’s airport to the tune of $150 million to allow easy access by bigger aircraft.
He said the Government had already found some partners including multilateral financial institutions to partially fund the project, whose master plan was being worked on by engineers.
Eng Mzembi is on record lamenting that the Victoria Falls was not financially benefiting the country as it was being used as a transit zone, with tourists just being flown in to view the falls and taken out without spending much of their money in the country.
The proposed development, he said, would also allow the town to attract the younger generation of tourists who found the town unattractive due to lack of entertainment facilities.
“We need a bit of development. In the distant environs we must see ultra-modernity emerging which can attract the youthful market into this destination. Current visitors are very elderly couples as the youth are a bit bored,” he earlier said.
“They come and see the water and want to run because we are not providing the magnetism for their entertainment.”
Making the Victoria Falls attractive to capital would boost the tourism sector’s earnings. The sector, which directly employs 300 000 people, earned the country $300 million in 2012. — New Ziana.