REX MPHISA THE building that housed Holiday Inn Beitbridge Express has been placed on the market for US$4 million, six years after the operation collapsed, businessdigest established this week.
The sale, which was confirmed by a real estate agent, becomes the latest demonstration that there could be no space for big brands in the border town – a gateway into South Africa, which is strategically located between major Zimbabwean and South African national parks.
The three star property, which was operated by the Zimbabwe Stock Exchange (ZSE) listed leisure chain, African Sun Limited (ASL) collapsed in 2016 after traffic into the border town fell by wide margins as tourists avoided Zimbabwe over a myriad of reasons.
Government had imposed a 15% tax on tourists, a move which turned Zimbabwe into one of the most expensive destinations in the region.
And apart from multiple roadblocks that were mounted along the Beitbridge–Masvingo–Harare highway, under the late strongman, Robert Mugabe’s regime, the transnational artery posed a danger to passengers after government failed to repair it over many decades.
Holiday Inn Beitbridge Express, along with Rainbow Tourism Group’s Rainbow Beitbridge Hotel, which also closed around the same time, had been strategically positioned to attract overnight stayers from South Africa who would be driving to Zimbabwean destinations.
But big players were facing stiff competition from small scale properties in the border town.
After ASL left the property, it was turned into an office block for the Zimbabwe Revenue Authority office, according to Nancy Memory Machemedze, a representative of the agency that has the mandate to scout Holiday Inn Express Beitbridge up for grabs for buyers.
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“The hotel is now up for sale,” Machemedze told businessdigest.
“We are asking for US$3,9 million. It is built over 7,9 hectares and has more than 100 rooms. At the moment it is being leased by the Zimbabwe Revenue Authority (Zimra).”
The hotel was built during boom times for Zimbabwe’s tourism industry in the late 1990s.
It became the centre of global attraction during the June 21, 2001 three-hour solar eclipse whose pathway was above the Limpopo River and viewed better from Beitbridge or South Africa’s Kruger National Park.
In Zimbabwe, the perfect place to view the spectacle was at the property.
But after its collapse in 2016, locals and other consultants in the hotel and restaurants industry said big players had priced themselves out.
Across the Limpopo in South Africa, firms of the same size were flourishing.
During a tour of Beitbridge in June, Tourism minister Mangaliso Ndhlovu said he hoped the building that housed the two hotels would be put to good use.
He said most importantly it would be good for them to find investors in to promote southern Zimbabwe tourism.
In a recent interview with businessdigest, the minister said there were many positive developments in the tourism sector since the beginning of the year.
The industry was the worst affected by pandemic lockdowns, which hit the country from 2020.
“As of the first quarter of the year international tourist arrivals have risen by 93% to 126 955 from 65 882 in the same period in 2021,” Ndhlovu said in May.
“There have been positive performances in all areas including domestic tourism and accommodation facility utilisation. For example, the average hotel utilisation has risen by 20 percentage points from 14% in 2021 to 34% this year.
“Based on this positive performance in the first quarter, the tourism sector is expected to fare much better in 2022 compared to 2021,” he added.
Beitbridge lies between the Gonarezhou National Park in Zimbabwe and Mapungubwe National Park in South Africa.