United Nations World Tourism Organisation

From : Theafricareport.com

26 June 2012

By : Janet Shoko

Zimbabwe is yet to secure a US$1 billion loan for the construction of a venue to host a world tourism indaba to be held in August 2013, throwing the country’s preparations into disarray.

The southern African nation and its neighbour Zambia are due to host a United Nations World Tourism summit, but Victoria Falls in Zimbabwe, where the meeting will be held, does not have conference facilities big enough to host the delegates, meaning a new one has to be built.

Tourism Minister, Walter Mzembi conceded that the country was yet to come up with funding to build the ambitious conference centre and shopping mall.

[The] government is considering $1 billion projects through Build-Own-Transfer, Build-Own-Operate Transfer and private sector participation,” Mzembi said, while updating parliament on progress made towards hosting the summit.

“It is consistent with our own desire to declare Victoria Falls a tourism hub but we are still to secure investors”.

Zimbabwe hopes to use the summit as a spring board for its faltering tourism industry and to show that the country was on the mend after a decade of negative publicity and a political and economic meltdown, but failure to have adequate facilities might tarnish the country’s image even further.

China had pledged to build the conference centre, but on condition that tenders for construction were awarded to Chinese companies, a contentious issue in Zimbabwe.

Minister of Public Works, Gabuza Joel Gabbuza, says negotiations with China for loans were in progress, as they had engaged the Chinese, with the hope that locals would be sub-contracted for upgrading projects or to supply the bulk of the building materials.

In its 2012 budget, Zimbabwe only set aside $1 million for the construction of the convention centre in Victoria Falls, but this has been described as a drop in the ocean.

Hardly any work has been done on the construction site, with barely 14 months to go to the UN summit, raising fears that this could be another missed opportunity for Zimbabwe.

So far only an environment impact assessment has just begun.