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Wednesday 28 August 2013

Zimbabwe's 'Disneyland' plans 'inappropriate'

The idea for the development was announced by Walter Mzembi, Zimbabwe’s tourism and hospitality minister, on the sidelines of the UN World Tourism Organisation (UNWTO) general assembly, which Zimbabwe is co-hosting with the town of Livingstone in neighbouring Zambia.

Mr Mzembi told New Ziana, the official news agency, that the government was planning to spend $300m (£193m) on the theme park, a venture which he described as a “Disneyland in Africa”.
The scheme was met with sceptism by Africa tourism specialists.

“Zimbabwe is a country that often struggles to do the basic things it needs to do and this cannot be a sensible suggestion,” said Chris McIntyre, managing director of Expert Africa, a UK-based specialist tour operator.

“People go to Zimbabwe because it actually offers something that is authentically African: they are not going to want to go there for a Mickey Mouse experience. It would be completely inappropriate."
His views were shared by Lisa Grainger, an Africa specialist and a regular contributor to Telegraph Travel, who earlier this year wrote about the very special allure of the Victoria Falls.

“It sounds like a crazy idea to put a money-making theme park beside one of the Seven Natural Wonders of the World," she said. "It would be like building a casino beside the pyramids. The reason people visit the falls is because it's unspoilt and natural: it's a glorious part of the Earth. Not because they want to buy candy-floss and be immersed in an American-style theme park."

Mr Mzembi suggested that in addition to the theme park the project would entail shopping malls, banks and exhibition and entertainment facilities such as casinos.

“We have reserved 1,200 hectares of land near Victoria Falls international airport for hotels and convention centres,” he said. “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.”

In addition to the United States, countries which have also opened Disney theme parks include France, Japan and China.

Tourism used to be one of Zimbabwe’s main revenue earners and officials in the country hope that it will be again. However its attempts to assure people that the country is now safe and desirable to visit have been hampered by continuing controversy over the human rights record of President Robert Mugabe, whose re-election last month is contested.

The decision to allow Zimbabwe to co-host the UNWTO conference was condemned by UN Watch, an independent human rights group, as a “disgraceful show of support – and a terribly timed award of false legitimacy – for a brutal, corrupt and authoritarian regime”.

Hillel Neuer, head of the Geneva-based group, said: “Amid reports of election rigging and continuing human rights abuses, Zimbabwe is the last country that should be legitimised by a UN summit of any kind. The notion that the UN should spin this country as a lovely tourist destination is, frankly, sickening.”

President Robert Mugabe’s status as UN “leader for tourism” has also been widely condemned.

Source: Zimbabwe's 'Disneyland' plans 'inappropriate' (27/8/13)

   Zimbabwe To Convert Victoria Falls Into Garden of Eden (3/9/13)
   Zimbabwe's 'Disneyland' plans 'inappropriate' (28/8/13)
   Victoria Falls 'Disneyland' on the cards (22/6/13)

Tuesday 27 August 2013

Mugabe Officially Opens UNWTO Tourism Session At Victoria Falls

President Mugabe has officially opened the 20th Session of United Nations World Tourism Organization (UNWTO) General Assembly.
Mugabe addressed a record number of delegates from 124 countries that attended the opening Sunday night at the legendary Victoria Hotel in Victoria Falls, Zimbabwe.
The event is co-hosted by Zimbabwe and Zambia. Welcoming delegates from a number of countries Mugabe said, “Your Excellencies, distinguished guests, ladies and gentlemen, I welcome you to the Victoria Falls and wish you the best in your deliberation and resolution. Please do enjoy our truly African hospitality. Here you will every morning wake up to the chirping of our birds and the aura of the African sun, and at the end of each day go to sleep under the star-filled African sky.
“With these remarks I declare the 20th Session of the UNWTO General Assembly officially opened.”
Full Speech
His Excellency Mr. Chilufya Sata, President of the Republic of Zambia,
The Secretary General of the United Nations World Tourism Organization, Mr. Taleb Rifai, Members of the diplomatic community,
Our host Ministers of Tourism here present and other Ministers from the Republics of Zimbabwe and Zambia,
Delegations and our distinguished guests from the UNWTO family,
Our traditional leaders, Chief Mvuto and Chief Mukuni, who share the iconic Victoria Falls,
Captains of the tourism industry,
Ladies and gentlemen,
Comrades and friends,
It is my pleasure, indeed an honor for my country, Zimbabwe, to host the UNWTO family tonight and during the next five days.
The hosting of this United Nations Specialized Agency’s General Assembly constitutes for us an important milestone in the economic history of our two countries, Zambia and Zimbabwe and the Southern African Development Community (SADC) region. We expect to leave an indelible mark on our memories, and that it be part of our generational legacy, marking a clear turning point in the tourism fortunes of our two countries, our regions and indeed our continent.
Mr. Secretary General, your decision to hold this important global event at this destination inspires us in our ongoing and continuous efforts, since the coming into being of the state of Zimbabwe, to maintain friendly relations with the whole international community, even with those countries with which we may not agree on all matters.
The selection of this venue from a number of competing candidates will doubtlessly strengthen our determination to leverage tourism for the economic well-being and advancement of our people in Zambia, Zimbabwe and the whole of Africa. We are enthused by the endorsement of our two countries as worthy hosts of such a meeting, and the recognition of this destination as one that is safe and secure for the world’s tourists.
Following the independence in 1980, Zimbabwe, and as early as 1981, recognized the efficacy of the UNWTO social and economic development strategy, with its emphasis on long-term sustainable growth in less developed economies, aimed, in part at achieving at least three of the Millennium Development Goals.
We remained an active member of the organization until 1999. Unfortunately during the period 2000 to 2008 we faced immense challenges occasioned, in large part, by illegal debilitating sanctions imposed upon us by some sections of the west. These sanctions sadly came hard on the heels of IMF/World Bank’s ill-conceived Economic Structural Adjustment Program (ESAP) that, amongst other negatives, disabled our active participation in bodies like the UNWTO.
Happily in 2009, with the facilitation of SADC and the AU, we formed a government of national unity, the GNU, which led to the somewhat softening of the stances against us on the part of our political and economic detractors.
I am very satisfied that the then newly set up Ministry of Tourism and Hospitality Industry swiftly reactivated our membership of the UNWTO and, with your active support, Secretary General Rifai, proceed to become a very active member of the organization, acquiring a seat on the organization’s Executive Council in the same year.
Since then we have not looked back and, following our successful two-nation bid with Zambia to co-host this session, we find ourselves here tonight. President Sata and I have since signed the Golden Book of tourism, this becoming ambassadors for global tourism – never mind the chagrin of some of our detractors over this matter.
Please let all of you know, that the signing of the golden book of tourism was not a matter of mere ceremony for us, for through that act we recognized the important political and economic role that tourism can play in our two countries and on our continent. We are committed to leveraging this sector as a key driver of our economic growth.
Let me take this opportunity to reiterate Zimbabwe’s commitment to the founding values and principles of the United Nations, notwithstanding our adversity to the hegemonic tendencies of some of the world’s economic and military super-powers who dominate the organization.
We are very satisfied that the United Nations is a vital body for all humanity. We are particularly happy that its specialized agency like UNICEF and the UNWTO have an increasingly important impact on the welfare of mankind.
Mr. Rifai, ladies and gentlemen your organization’s emphasis on sustainable tourism has great resonance with the importance Zimbabwe places on the principles of development with equity and empowerment of the masses.
It is on that basis, that I, without reservation, have my full support to the Zambia-Zimbabwe bid to host this General Assembly. I am very glad that the organization decided to hold the General Assembly here. That gesture attests to the organizations commitment to the development of tourism in Africa.
This indeed, is as it should be. The current situation where Africa only has a four percent share of global tourism revenue, in spite of its massive natural and cultural tourism resources is a matter of great concern to us.
This is especially so when seen in the light in which Secretary General, you highlighted some points in your White Paper of the year 2010. In that paper, you underlined the tourism sector’s resilience during economic hard times, even during global economic distress, and its capacity to alleviate poverty by its inherent positive disposition to community projects that can be led by women and youths. These are of great importance to us.
In this regard, I must conclude by putting on record our appreciation for the assistance that the UNWTO has extended to us this far as a region. This of late included technical support extended to SADC, through RETOSA, whereby the latter has received assistance towards the establishment of a Tourism Satellite Accounting System (TSAS). The TSAS will help us to fully account for the full contribution by tourism to our national and regional GDP.
I also note with great satisfaction that the UNWTO has approved community based initiatives for Zimbabwe, and their Sustainable Tourism for the reduction of poverty (STEP) program will run under the theme “Enhance the participation of youth and women in the tourism sector.”
This is an effective empowering tool which will promote equity and access to tourism revenue. It also resonates resoundingly with the people empowering initiatives that my government is pursuing.
The thematic thrusts you intend to pursue in this conference are summarized by the catch phrases “Open borders and open skies, removing hurdles to the growth of tourism in Africa.” are very apt in our times.
There is no way Africa can increase its portion of the global tourism cake without first promoting intra- African travel. Indeed connectivity of African cities, regions and attraction augurs well for growing Africa’s share, as it serves, ultimately, to integrate the African tourism product and its marketing and promotion, which in turn makes it more attractive to the long haul traveler than is the case now.
The need for open borders, through regional block visa regimes, which we are trying to implement at UNIVISA through RETOSA, will not only allow easier travel amongst SADC citizens, it will make it easier for the long haul intercontinental visitor and investor.
IT is very critical that Africa evolves strategies that effectively lure tourists to the continent. This assumes even greater importance in view of Europe’s effort to keep the tourism dollars within the Euro Zones, by imposing punitive airport departure taxes for its intercontinental travelers.
The type of seamless border between Livingstone town and Victoria Falls town that has been put in place for purpose of this conference should become the rule rather than the exception, for all adjacent touristic border communities throughout SADC, and ultimately throughout Africa. Africa can only benefit from increasingly behaving like a single common market.
Comrade President Sata, it is my fervent hope that the dream and vision of the founders of independent Africa, of a United States of Africa will become a reality one day sooner rather than later.
Events like this one, Secretary General, which you have constructed and positioned as “A uniquely African General Assembly,” may be small, but critical in the realization of an integrated economic-political entity called Africa.
Your Excellencies, distinguished guests, ladies and gentlemen, I welcome you to the Victoria Falls and wish you the best in your deliberation and resolution. Please do enjoy our truly African hospitality. Here you will every morning wake up to the chirping of our birds and the aura of the African sun, and at the end of each day go to sleep under the star-filled African sky.
With these remarks I declare the 20th Session of the UNWTO General Assembly officially opened.

Monday 26 August 2013

Victoria Falls 'Disneyland' on the cards

Source: Bernama Date: 26 August

US$300 Million Theme Park For Zimbabwe's Victoria Falls

Zimbabwe plans to set up a US$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. 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 Walter Mzembi told New Ziana the government had acquired 1,200 hectares of land for construction of what he termed 'Disneyland in Africa.'
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 that the investment would not disturb flora and fauna near the falls. "The cost of the investment is about $300 million." 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', 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.

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," Mzembi 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 sectors earnings. The sector, which directly employs 300,000 people, earned the country $300 million in 2012.

Source: Bernama
   Zimbabwe To Convert Victoria Falls Into Garden of Eden (3/9/13)
   Zimbabwe's 'Disneyland' plans 'inappropriate' (28/8/13)
   Victoria Falls 'Disneyland' on the cards (22/6/13)

Friday 23 August 2013

Livingstone: Vic Falls World Heritage Site Refurbished

Rehabilitation of infrastructure at the Victoria Falls World Heritage Site in Livingstone has been completed in readiness for the United Nations World Tourism Organisation (UNWTO) general assembly which starts this Saturday.
The site is home to the Victoria Falls and also houses the Zambezi Sun Hotel, the main venue for delegates to the UNWTO general assembly.
Government released about K6 million for rehabilitation of infrastructure at the site which included erection of an 800-meter steel fence from the Victoria Falls Bridge to Zambezi Sun Hotel, construction of a modern curio market, a contemporary lavatory and upgrading of walk ways, among others.
Speaking during the official opening of the site on Monday, Minister of Chiefs and Traditional Affairs Nkandu Luo urged Livingstone residents to guard the structures jealously.
Professor Luo said Government will continue to upgrade infrastructure at heritage sites to attract more tourists and increase revenue collection needed to improve people’s lives.
On the construction of a curio market, Prof. Luo said she is happy that traders, who for years had been selling their crafts in makeshift stores, will now have a decent place to conduct their business transactions from.

Thursday 22 August 2013

Telecel lights up Victoria Falls bridge

TELECEL is lighting up the Victoria Falls bridge between Zimbabwe and Zambia as part of its contribution to the United Nations World Tourism Organisation General Assembly being hosted by the two countries next week.

The bridge illumination, at a cost of about $100 000, has provision for up to 1,8 million colour options. Telecel’s sponsorship covers illumination for 75 000 hours, which means the bridge illumination will continue for 15 years.

The project, which is the first of its kind, is being worked on through several partners, most notably SSLI and Philips Electronics. Telecel will also ensure that its voice and data services are optimised for visitors to the Victoria Falls.

A new Telecel office has been opened in Victoria Falls, which will be officially commissioned before the official UNWTO General Assembly programme starts.

The shop, along with technical improvements in Victoria Falls and the surrounding areas are intended to provide lasting high quality mobile and Internet connectivity in the area.

Commenting on the decision to power the illumination of the Victoria Falls bridge, Telecel Zimbabwe general manager Ms Angeline Vere said the company saw the bridge not only as an iconic monument but as symbolic of the link between the two countries co-hosting the assembly.

“The bridge not only links Zambia and Zimbabwe but it is a shared structure jointly owned by the two countries.

“As such it can be seen as a symbol of the ties that bind the two countries together and of their joint hosting of the UNWTO General Assembly.

“Moreover, since Telecel is paying for the illumination of the bridge for the next 15 years, it will be a lasting monument to the holding of the UNWTO General Assembly and continue no doubt to delight visitors to the Victoria Falls.

“It seemed fitting too for a communications company like Telecel to sponsor an enhancement of the bridge, which provides such an important transport communication link between the two countries.

“The concept of an iconic bridge such as the Victoria Falls bridge being illuminated in a manner that allows 1,8 million different colour possibilities fits in well with Telecel’s focus on innovation and technology, a focus for which it is becoming increasingly well known,” she said.

Source: Telecel lights up Victoria Falls bridge (21/08/13)

Sunday 18 August 2013

Zimbabwe pays US$40M Kariba debt, paving way for Batoka Dam

The Zimbabwe Government has paid US$40 million towards its Federation-era power debt to Zambia, paving the way for construction of the Batoka Gorge hydropower station. The payment was made through power utility ZESA, which is wholly-owned by government.

The debt was for the shared cost of the Kariba Dam construction and the associated infrastructure. It also included proceeds of the sale of assets belonging to Central African Power Corporation (CAPCO), a power firm jointly owned by the two countries as members of the Federation of Rhodesia and Nyasaland which was dissolved in 1963. CAPCO was running the Kariba power project for the two countries but was disbanded in 1987.

ZESA spokesperson, Fullard Gwasira, confirmed the development last week saying the debt payment would help pave the way towards the construction of the Batoka Gorge hydropower station. He also indicated that the debt balance would be paid within the next seven months.

"We have already paid US$40 million to Zambia as part settlement of the US$70,8 million debt," Gwasira said. "The balance will be cleared on or before March 2014 as we have total commitment to our side of the bargain to ensure that we have a clean bill with our Zambian counterparts. ZESA Holdings has rendered its cooperation to its Zambian counterparts, a move that will go a long way to ensure the smooth execution of the Batoka Hydro power project to achieve security of electricity supply."

Zimbabwe and Zambia last year signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) to jointly construct the Batoka hydro electric project with each country expected to get 800MW of electricity from the project, a development which would help boost power supply in the two countries.

The agreement on the project, situated about 50km downstream of Victoria Falls on the Zambezi River, was however dependent on Zimbabwe's commitment to pay off the debt it owed Zambia over CAPCO.

The Batoka project, estimated to cost about US$3 billion is expected to be built and operated by a private company for a period of years before transferring ownership to the two states.

Recently the State Procurement Board awarded tenders to China Machinery Engineering Company and Sino Hydro Corporation to expand Hwange and Kariba power stations respectively. The expansion of Hwange will see the additional of two units with a combined generation capacity of 600MW while the expansion of Kariba Power station will add 300MW of electricity to the national grid. Zimbabwe has also embarked on the refurbishment of its power stations to boost generation capacity.


Zambezi National Park restocked with animals from Save Conservancy

The Zimbabwe National Parks and Wildlife Management Authority is in the process of translocating stocks of wild animals to suppliment populations in the Zambezi National Park, Victoria Falls, ahead of the United Nations World Tourism Organisation General Assembly next week.

The Authority is in the process of translocating 151 wildebeests, 25 elands, 60 zebras, 100 impalas and 10 giraffe from the Save Valley Conservancy in Masvingo. Outgoing Wildlife and Natural Resources Minister Francis Nhema yesterday witnessed the translocation of several animals being released into the Boma holding at Chemabondo.

Nhema expanded “We are translocating the animals from Save Valley Conservancy to Zambezi National Park to beef up the population there. In the past we had translocated 101 wildebeests, 34 impala, 16 eland and 18 zebras. Today we have seen the translocation of another consignment of 20 eland, 64 impala, and 17 zebra. The animal population had decreased, in short, due to poaching and other factors and we are now correcting past mistakes.

“There are several reasons why protected areas require population supplementation. Some of these reasons include increasing visibility for wildlife tourism, strengthening the genetic pool, destocking, overpopulated areas, establishing the desired sex ratios and increasing prey base for large carnivores," he said.

Source: The Herald

Wednesday 14 August 2013

Kaza aim for regional visas

The five member countries involved with the Kavango-Zambezi Transfrontier Conservation Area (KAZA TFCA) are aiming to have uniform visas by the end of this year, Zambian Tourism and Arts Minister Sylvia Masebo has reported following a meeting for KAZA Ministers of Tourism, Wildlife and Natural Resources in Angola.
Ms Masebo said a common visa would be a milestone for the region as it would allow for the free movement of people and goods within the five-member countries and ultimately promote tourism in the region. “One of the points to note from the just-ended Angola meeting is that by December 31, 2013, it is hoped that we shall have the common KAZA-TFCA visa between five member countries. This will allow for free movement of people and goods and it will be a milestone for tourism promotion,” Ms Masebo said.
“We have come from a very successful KAZA-TFCA Ministers meeting in Angola. During the 20th session of the United Nations World Tourism Organisation (UNWTO) General Assembly in Livingstone, this month, delegates will be taken to KAZA-TFCA projects in Zambia,” Ms Masebo said.

Tuesday 13 August 2013

Kaza meeting calls for shared vision for regional development

The Angolan Minister of Hotels and Tourism, Pedro Mutindi, called for the member countries of Kavango Zambezi (KAZA) Transfrontier Conservation Area (TFCA) to be united for the materialisation of the initiative for the benefit of all.
Speaking at the closing act of the KAZA ministers meeting, held in Menongue City in the southern Kuando Kubango province, the Minister, who has chaired the meeting, highlighted the need for the member countries (Angola, Zambia, Zimbabwe, Namibia and Botswana) to be more and more united so that issues related to economic, academic, social and tourist development may be achieved.
At the opening of the meeting the governor of Kuando-Kubango province, Higino Carneiro announced that two aircraft will be made available for air patrol and transportation of personnel deployed at the Luiana, Mavinga, Mucusso and Luengue parks for the protection and management of wildlife resources. The ministers of Zambia and Namibia, Sílvia Masebo, and Huaekua Herunga, respectively, attended the meeting.
More about KAZA
The Kavango-Zambezi (KAZA) Transfrontier Conservation Area is situated in the Okavango and Zambezi river basins where the borders of Angola, Botswana, Namibia, Zambia and Zimbabwe converge.
It is set to become the world's biggest conservation area and will eventually span an area of approximately 520,000 km2 (similar in size to France). It will include 36 national parks, game reserves, community conservancies and game management areas. Most notably, the area will include the Caprivi Strip, Chobe National Park, the Okavango Delta (the largest Ramsar Site in the World) and the Victoria Falls (a World Heritage Site and one of the Seven Natural Wonders of the World) and has the potential to insulate the region from the effects of flooding and climate change. The natural resources contained in the KAZA TFCA are also critical to the sustainable development of the region on account of their inherent and enormous socio-economic value.
Kavango-Zambezi promises to be southern Africa's premier tourist destination and vitally important wildlife refuge, with the largest contiguous population of the African elephant on the continent, representing over half the total population.
Source: Angolan Press Agency

Wednesday 7 August 2013

Cresta Sprayview Hotel re-opens

CRESTA Sprayview Hotel in the resort town of Victoria Falls has reopened after undergoing a $1,7 million refurbishment ahead of the United Nations World Tourism Organisation (UNWTO) general assembly, Cresta Hotels chief executive Mr Glenn Stutchbury said. In a telephone interview from Harare yesterday, Mr Stutchbury said he was happy to note that the hotel which reopened on 31 August was already fully booked for the general assembly.

“Yes the hotel has reopened after a $1,7 million refurbishment project. The hotel is reopening just in time for the general assembly. We are really looking forward to that event considering that all the 65 rooms have been taken by delegates coming in for the tourism indaba. We finalised the rooms for UNWTO with the relevant officials yesterday (Thursday) and we are very happy with the development,” he said.

Mr Stutchbury said refurbishments were done in the 65 bedrooms, the restaurant, two bars and three conference rooms spread around a swimming area.

“We also bought new furniture, linen among other things to give the hotel a new look,” he said.
Cresta Hotels acquired the hotel on a lease basis from its owners to make its first entrance into Zimbabwe’s premier tourist destination.

Cresta Hotels currently operates eight hotels in Botswana, one in Zambia and four in Zimbabwe, through Cresta Marakanelo listed in Botswana and Cresta Hospitality owned by Zimbabwe Stock Exchange-quoted TA Holdings Limited.

Cresta Sprayview was built in the 1960s as Peter Motel and was redeveloped into Sprayview in the 1970s.

The UNWTO general assembly is expected to provide the country with an opportunity to market itself to delegates from 158 countries set to attend.

Source: Cresta Sprayview Hotel re-opens (06/08/13)