The Sunday News
Locadia Mavhudzi, Midlands Correspondent
PROVINCIAL Affairs and Devolution Minister for the Midlands Province Larry Mavima has called on players in the tourism sector to upgrade their facilities so that they can attract new markets as the country moves towards Vision 2030.
Speaking on the sidelines of a recent Midlands Media Awards ceremony, Minister Mavima said upgrading tourism facilities was crucial as the country was positioning itself as a competitive tourist destination in line with the National Development Strategy 1 (NDS1).
He applauded the new Village Lodge Changamire Conference facility, saying it was a critical catalyst in the national devolution agenda and achievement of infrastructural growth.
“These are the kind of facilities that will enable business to come to Gweru. We envision a city that provides international standard facilities not only in the hospitality sector but in all sectors of the economy. As the country’s economy recovers from the Covid-19 dent, the role played by tourism can never be understated.
Face-to-face meetings and events play an integral role in bolstering key business sectors and these need a refreshing atmosphere,” said Minister Mavima.
He said the Midlands Province is a special economic zone with a lot of mining activities that should be supported by attractive tourism and conferencing facilities.
“I implore all hoteliers here present to venture into conferencing facilities in areas like Zvishavane, Shurugwi and Mberengwa. Local state-of-the-art facilities will go a long way to celebrate our culture while we decentralise business activities,” said Minister Mavima.
Despite the harsh economic outlook induced by Covid-19, a popular hotelier in the Midlands Province took the lockdown opportunity to revamp his existing infrastructure by constructing a state-of-the-art conference centre.
Village Lodges general manager Mr Tom Nyirenda said the new conferencing facility has improved room occupancy by 20 percent over the last six months.
“It has been a dream come true for the Midlands to have such a great conference centre. It has always been our wish because as Midlands we were losing big conferences to Harare and Bulawayo.
We can now host conferences attended by between 200 and 300 delegates depending on the seating style. Within this short period after the opening of the Changamire Conference Centre we have hosted a number of big events and realised a tremendous growth on our occupancies,” he said.
Mr Nyirenda said the city’s central positioning was an added advantage as it enables them to host conferences for people from across the country.
“Gweru being the central part of the country is a preferred place for many organisations because of its location. We are working with ZTA (Zimbabwe Tourism Authority) on marketing the Midlands Province in line with Vision 2030 that is anchored on development of smart cities.”
Hospitality Association of Zimbabwe, (HAZ) Midlands Chapter chairperson Mr Elphas Munyimi said the sector was reeling from the effects of Covid-19 which have impacted the long-term growth of the sector.
“We are the most crippled sector due to Covid-19. We are already feeling the punch of overhanging debts to our suppliers while fixed costs need to be paid with or without business.
It is imperative that the Government considers direct long-term support to assist the hospitality sector. Small players in the sector may end up unable to bring back business and be viable again after Covid-19,” said Mr Munyimi.