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Government turns Vic Falls into conference hub

GOVERNMENT will retain the aluminium and glass structure that will serve as a conference centre for next month’s United Nations World Tourism Organisation (UNWTO) General Assembly as it wants to reposition Victoria Falls as a conferencing destination.

REPORT BY BY NDAMU SANDU

Zimbabwe and Zambia are co-hosting the UNWTO 20th session in Victoria Falls and Livingstone respectively from August 24 to 29.

This comes after Treasury released US$2 million enabling organisers to pay deposit for the structures and professional conference organiser (PCO).

Tourism and Hospitality Industry minister Walter Mzembi told Standardbusiness that the structure, with a capacity of 1 500, would be retained and the ministry was in talks with hospitality group African Sun Limited (ASL) for a management contract.

The structure will be put at Elephant Hills run by Zimbabwe Stock Exchange-listed ASL.

It will be in place in two weeks’ time.

Mzembi said government’s thrust to position Victoria Falls as a conferencing destination has resulted in Zimbabwe hosting a major convention next year in the resort town.

“We have one in the bag already which will be held sometime next year: a blood transfusion Africa conference that would have delegates in excess of 800. I am in conversation with the minister of health on the matter, which has already been tabled before cabinet. Cabinet has endorsed our hosting of that convention,” Mzembi said.

Government’s push to lure conferences to Victoria Falls is dependent on the successful hosting of the UNWTO General Assembly.

Mzembi said by virtue of paying deposit for the aluminium and glass structures and the PCO, Zimbabwe had made a giant step in its preparations for the General Assembly.

“Those two are the ones that make or break a general assembly and I am happy the state has finally made a commitment through the deposit and work that is in progress now,” he said.

Mzembi said government would retain “the services of all the actors into the General Assembly for future bidding of conferences including the PCOs in line with our vision to establish a conventions bureau”.

The Zimbabwe Tourism Industry (ZTA) has a department on meetings, incentives, conferences and exhibition (Mice) and Mzembi said the authority had put proposals to the Tourism ministry for the establishment of the convention bureau.

“We have been limited in the past to attract conferences to Victoria Falls by our limited conferencing space, the largest being one that has a capacity of not more than 300 delegates,” Mzembi said, adding that another operator had secured a marquee that can seat up to 5 000 delegates.
“Post General Assembly that destination will be busy with conferences,” he said.

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