Media reports from Zimbabwe say the country has signed an agreement with Chinese investors to develop land near Victoria Falls. The development has been on the cards since 2013, with an estimated cost of US$460 million. There has been much speculation around whether the development includes the concept ‘Disneyland in Africa’.
Tourism Minister, Walter Mzembi, said the theme park and conference centre were part of the vision for a $5 billion tourism industry in Victoria Falls, which is classified as a Unesco World Heritage Site.
“We have signed an overarching agreement with some Chinese developers for a master plan to develop 300 hectares of land between the airport and the Masue River,” said Mzembi.
Despite rumours around the proposed Disneyland-style project, a source told Tourism Update that it was definitely not the case and that a theme park was not being built. The allocated area for the development will see a ‘new Victoria Falls’, equivalent to a revamped CBD for the area.
General Manager of Victoria Falls Safari Lodge, Jonathan Hudson said the Minister had spoken about how much money the country needed, and that the proposed development was not an actual theme park, and that the media had misconstrued whole project. Hudson said the plan was to build a new CBD for Victoria Falls, developing it outside the Unesco World Heritage Site. He compared the development to Sandton in Johannesburg.
Zimbabwean tourism officials have complained about the short time visitors spend in the region, flying in from South Africa and soon flying out, with low expenditure during the brief visits. Officials have insisted that tourism infrastructure is needed to ensure visitors extend their stay.
During an interview with CCTV News in 2015, Mzembi said: “You can call it what you want. You can call it an eco-Disney Land as the media is suggesting; you can call it an ultra-city… the bottom line is we want to modernise that section of the Victoria Falls.”
There has been a lot of discussion regarding the project, as many think that it is not appropriate for the location, as Charlene Hewat Chief Executive of the conservation group, Environment Africa, says: “I am really not sure that this is the right kind of project for one of the seven wonders of the world. The Victoria Falls does need a conference centre but it needs to be done in a way that fits in with our environment and the surrounds.”