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African Sun on course for summit

African Sun Limited is going all out to ensure its hotels in the holiday resort town of Victoria Falls are ready for the United Nations World Tourism Organisation (UNWTO) summit, to take place later this year.

The group chief executive of the Zimbabwean hotel company, Dr Shingi Munyeza, said the Elephant Hills Resort, the Kingdom at Victoria Falls, and the Victoria Falls Hotel were undergoing refurbishments to ensure the facilities met the required standards for the summit, which would be held from 24 to 29 August in the resort town. He was speaking at an African Sun Indaba breakfast meeting on the sidelines of Indaba, at Durban’s Hilton Hotel on Sunday, 12 May.

The refurbishment project was also part of the group’s promise to its guests to offer “a world-class product and service, thereby maximising guest satisfaction and experience”.

IDC loan

In 2010, the Zimbabwe Stock Exchange-listed hotel group secured a long-term US$10-million (about R91m) loan from the Industrial Development Corporation during the group’s efforts to raise capital. “Part of the loan, which will be serviced in seven years, is going to the refurbishment of our Zimbabwean properties which have not seen any investment in the more than 10 years,” Munyeza said.

“The upgrading of the Victoria Falls hotels is part of phase one, part two, of the refurbishment exercise. Upgrades to our resort hotels will be done by the end of July 2013, before the UNWTO summit.” These refurbishments included upgrades to the information and communications technology infrastructure, installing new LCD television sets, and ensuring internet connectivity was improved through installing Wi-Fi in all hotel rooms.

Munyeza said the Elephant Hills conference facility would be the official venue for the UNWTO general assembly in August, and the group was making sure all its hotels accommodated all markets in the resort town.

The summit was an excellent marketing opportunity for the hotel group, said Munyeza. “We want to make sure the Elephant Hills Hotel is a destination of choice for visitors,” he said. Already, the group was enjoying a surge in fortunes, with the American, Asian and African markets “looking robust” for the group and the Zimbabwean tourism industry at large.

Phase one, part one involved upgrading the Holiday Inn Bulawayo, Holiday Inn Harare and The Crowne Plaza in the capital city. “Upgrades to the Bulawayo Hotel are done and the upgrades to the Harare hotels are almost done,” he said. In addition, the group was undertaking a trial run of its new booking system, Munyeza said. Gone would be the days of manual bookings, “everything will be done online, by an equipped team”.

He said the tourism industry in Zimbabwe had to push and upscale the sector, which had been in free fall for the past decade. “We cannot afford to spend our time complaining about the past 10 years, and also spend the next 10 years complaining about the past 10 years. We have to push and move on.”

It is election time again in Zimbabwe, and this tends to have a negative effect on the country’s business environment, especially on the tourism industry, according to Munyeza, but he assured visitors that the atmosphere in the country was safe. The referendum on the new constitution had been a breeze, with the majority voting overwhelmingly for a new constitution.

Turnaround

An accomplished businessman, Munyeza has played an instrumental role in turning around the Zimbabwean tourism industry. He works closely with governments in Africa to improve tourism and hotel development. He was recently conferred an honorary doctorate in business administration and development by Solusi University in recognition of his contribution to the tourism sector.

In addition, Munyeza was the Zimbabwe 2008 Institute of Directors Award winner, twice received the Institute of Directors Runner up Award, was named Chief Executive of the Year 2008 by the Institute of People Management Zimbabwe, and received the Zimbabwe Tourism Authority Personality of the Year Award for four consecutive years.

An accountant by profession, Munyeza attained an IMM diploma in marketing, and ended up as executive director in an advertising agency. However, he discovered that Africa had a lot to offer in the hospitality industry and made his dream career move to drive African Sun Limited in 2002.

But his involvement in tourism is not limited to the group. He has played an instrumental role in boosting tourism in Zimbabwe through various initiatives, and has been the president of the Zimbabwe Council for Tourism for three years.

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