Old Mutual Life Assurance Company (OMLAC) has reached a land deal with the government that moves the company a step further in its plans to build a new hotel and conference centre in Victoria Falls.
Government will grant the company a lease on over 55 hectares of land in the Victoria Falls Special Economic Zone (SEZ). In exchange, OMLAC will undertake a US$430 948 feasibility study on the development of infrastructure in the Masuwe area of Victoria Falls.
Mosi Oa Tunya Development Company (MOTDC), an arm of the Ministry of Tourism, will represent government’s interests in the deal, Cabinet said on Tuesday.
“In lieu of payment for the feasibility study cost, MOTDC will grant OMLAC a lease over 55 hectares of land for construction of a 4-star hotel with a 5 000-seater conference centre, a hospital facility, a golf course, and a shopping mall on land to be allocated by Government. OMLAC will then have to pay rentals after recovery of the cost of the feasibility study,” Cabinet announced.
Old Mutual is already one of the country’s largest property owners; its portfolio comprises over 500 000 square metres of property. Among these are Westgate, Highglen, Chitungwiza Centre and Nkulumane Shopping Centre.
But with slow commercial growth in the big cities, Old Mutual is diversifying away from Harare and Bulawayo. The company has previously announced that it is looking to towns such as Victoria Falls and Ngezi, where new mining developments are planned.
In its latest financial results for 2020, Old Mutual noted the sluggish pace of new property projects in the market.
“Property market performance largely tracked exchange rate movements, with underlying property valuations relying on inputs based in a stable currency. New investments in capital projects were lower than expected reflecting the effect of both the economy’s inability to foster enough confidence to attract long term capital at the right scale and COVID19-induced limitations,” chairman Kumbirai Katsande says.
In 2019, Masuwe was one of five special economic zones demarcated by government. It measures 1 200 hectares, onto which the Ministry of Tourism plans to attract new developers.
Separately, ZimParks has reached a US$3 million deal with Zambezi Crescent to upgrade its lodges at Zambezi Camp in Victoria Falls.
“This amount will be contributed by the investor, while ZimParks will provide exclusive rights to the use of the lodges at the camp and their surroundings. The project will be implemented as a joint venture over 25 years with the parties sharing profits on a 50/50 basis,” Cabinet says.
ZimParks has dozens of lodges across the country in its national parks, but many lack modern facilities due to years of under-investment. The Parks authority’s facilities are popular with budget travelers, but the deal with Zambezi Crescent may see the refurbished facilities at Zambezi Camp catering more for the premium market.
Zambezi Crescent, owned by Mark and Amanda Bosch, runs two properties in Victoria Falls; the River Lodge Luxury Tented Suites and the Victoria Falls River Lodge. Both are exclusive properties targeted at the high-end tourist market.