Bulawayo: The ultimate meeting place

Dumisani Nsingo
The Zimbabwe International Trade Fair (ZITF) Company has identified a transaction advisor to assist it in the implementation of the $50 million hotel and convention centre project, the firm’s chairperson, Mrs Ruth Ncube has said.

The company plans to construct a 300-bed five-star hotel and a giant 800-seater convention centre in its Bulawayo exhibition premises after realising an untapped accommodation market in the city.

The city only has two conversional hotels under Rainbow and African Sun. During peak periods such as the annual ZITF exhibition and big national events, delegates at times fail to secure accommodation, resulting in others putting up in homes or commuting from Gweru and Gwanda.

Mrs Ncube said a transaction advisor had been identified but negotiations between the two parties are still on-going.

“We have found a lead advisor and we communicated with them last week but they haven’t communicated back…we gave them up to Thursday next week (this week) to communicate back,” said Ms Ncube, adding that the name will be disclosed soon.

The trans­ac­tion ad­vi­sor ten­der ap­pli­ca­tions, which were closed on 16 March this year,  are reported to have attracted international attention with a number of foreign firms having applied.

Fea­si­bil­ity stud­ies for the construction projects were done be­tween 2011 and 2012. However, they had been shelved sinced then.

Re­newed eco­nomic re­vival prospects and con­fi­dence brought about by the new dis­pen­sa­tion prompted the ZITF Com­pany to con­sider pur­su­ing the projects.

“We are taking a long-term view to this country, if we take a short-term view, nothing will come out…short to medium is sufficient. There are peak times when there is no accommodation at all (in Bulawayo), industry is beginning to open and (international) inquiries are beginning to come in,” said Ms Ncube.

“We are overwhelmed with inquiries and hotels are turning away people because of their limited bedding and conferencing capacity,” she said.

The shortage of accommodation has over the past years risen, calling for the construction of a new hotel in the city, but there had been no serious response mainly due to deteriorating economic conditions.

Ms Ncube said Zimbabwe needs to invest in its accomodation and con­fer­ence facilities.

“For expos like A’sambeni, some of the buyers strictly say they want to stay in five-star hotels and most of the time they don’t come because we don’t have the correct facilities here in Bulawayo. These are some of the things we are looking at as an industry to see how best we can position Bulawayo as a hub in terms of tourism and conferencing.

“Imagine, in Southern Africa, probably the only country that can take sizeable African conferences is South Africa. Our country needs more capacity to host conferences. Only the HICC (Harare International Conference Centre) is somehow better,” said Ms Ncube.

Some countries generate billions of dollars in foreign currency every year through providing state-of-the-art conference and accommodation facilities.

In addition to important business opportunities, the meetings, incentives, conventions and exhibitions (MICE) and tourism provides immense benefits to the broader economy as it generates a higher spending level on average. lt also facilitates knowledge transfer, enhances innovation and creativity, reduces seasonality and contributes to the regeneration of destinations.

A number of destinations in the Asian-Pacific owe their rapid growth and development to their ability to model themselves as premium meeting destinations.

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