HOTEL and leisure group, African Sun Limited (ASL) has moved to bail out government from a potential embarrassment by putting up a semi-permanent convention centre at its at Elephant Hills hotel ahead of the United Nations World Tourism Organisation General Assembly (UNWTO) to be held in the resort town of Victoria Falls in August.
The Financial Gazette’s Companies & Markets (C&M) can report that ASL has roped in Cape Town-based Chattels Infrastructure and Event Solutions to start work on a semi-permanent structure to be used for the UNWTO conference next month.
The structure, which would accommodate up to 1 500 people, is the only one of its kind in Africa. Most of the materials used to erect the structure have been imported from Germany.
The structure, whose construction began two weeks ago, is expected to be complete by the end of next week.
Speaking to C&M, Chattels managing director, Paul Clarke, said work in Victoria Falls was at an advanced stage and should be complete in four weeks.
“We have already started building the structure at Elephant Hills and expect it to be complete within four weeks,” he said.
The aluminium glass fabrication structure, with an estimated lifespan of 30 years and a capacity of up to 1 500 delegates, would be the main conference centre for the assembly which Zimbabwe will co-host with Zambia.
Clarke, who founded Chattel 19 years ago, could not reveal how much the structure would cost, but C&M understands that the Infrastructure Development Bank of Zimbabwe (IDBZ) provided ASL with close to US$4 million for the construction of the semi-permanent centre at Elephant Hills and upgrading of facilities at the hotel for the UNWTO.
The company said semi-permanent structures were ideal for accommodation, schools communal facilities, retail showrooms, factory shops, warehousing and storage facilities, field hospitals and disaster relief operations, housing, commercial buildings, hospitals and healthcare.
Chattel said advantages of semi-permanent structures were that they were cost-effective, manufactured off-site in a controlled environment, more rapidly and simply constructed than conventional buildings, easily reconfigured, easily transportable, technologically advanced, functional and aesthetically pleasing.
Zimbabwe won the bid to co-host the 20th session of the 2013 UNWTO General Assembly in Victoria Falls together with Zambia from August 24 to 29 in a move widely thought to reflect the aggressive marketing campaign being conducted by the Zimbabwe Tourism Authority.
But government has been singled out as the biggest drawback to an aggressive campaign to put up a monumental structure meant to accommodate guests during the UNWTO session.
Speaking before a Parliamentary Committee on Natural Resources and Tourism last year, Ministry of Transport and Communication’s Permanent Secretary, Munesushe Munodawafa, said a temporary solution was now needed since it was now a reality that the planned Convention Centre, which would accommodate about 4 000 guests, had failed to materialise.
“Cabinet approved the construction of a permanent structure (the convention centre) but looking at the time left (before the UNWTO begins), and the situation on the ground, we believe it is no longer possible,” he said.
“We are now looking at Plan B which will be a semi-permanent solution,” Munodawafa said.
The Convention Centre was expected to be built near Masuwi and Air Port road.
Founded in 1990, Chattels is rated among the leading providers of temporary structure event and equipment solutions throughout Africa.
They have provided infrastructure and event solutions for hospitality and media villages, international and local sporting events, exhibitions and sales conferences, gala functions, weddings and many other celebrations in Africa.
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