Zimbabwe is planning a low-budget entertainment park in the resort town of Victoria Falls to boost local tourism, a cabinet minister said today. “We want to bring the Garden of Eden to Victoria Falls, where flora and fauna can co-exist,” Tourism Minister Walter Mzembi told AFP at the end of the United Nations World Tourism Organisation (UNWTO) general assembly co-hosted by Zimbabwe and neighbour Zambia. “We don’t know how big the Garden of Eden was but it will be our model. It’s still a vision. We are at the conceptual stage. What’s in place is the land.” Some have dubbed the project “a Disneyland for Africa.”
“The main aim is provide a facility in Victoria Falls where locals who cannot afford the high cost of booking in major hotels in the resort can come for holiday. Victoria Falls should cease to be the preserve of the rich and foreign visitors,” Mzembi said. The government allocated 1 200 hectares (almost 3 000 acres) of land for the project to be built by local and foreign private investors, he added. “Government’s only contribution is the land. We will invite investors to come in and build.” Among the planned facilities will be a zoo, hotels, a skating rink and a garden with a replica of the Victoria Falls waterfall.
Victoria Falls, on the border of Zimbabwe and Zambia, is a popular destination for foreign holidaymakers. But high travel and accommodation costs put it beyond the means of the majority of the population. Along with Livingstone town in Zambia, Victoria Falls hosted the UNWTO general assembly despite objections from some Western countries to Zimbabwe hosting the event. Zimbabwe has been roundly condemned in the West for the poor human rights record of President Robert Mugabe’s security forces. But UNWTO Secretary-General Taleb Rifai said the decision to allow Zimbabwe and Zambia to co-host the event was “the correct and right decision”. Around 1 200 delegates from UNWTO member states discussed ways to promote tourism.