BY HARRIET CHIKANDIWA
GOVERNMENT has pledged to promote one of Harare’s outdoor leisure centres, Mereki Shopping Centre, as a domestic tourism hub.
This was revealed by Environment minister Nqobizitha Mangaliso Ndlovu in Parliament during a question-and-answer session.
Ndlovu said for years, Mereki shopping centre was always a hive of activity, promoting the proliferation of domestic tourism.
“The role of my ministry and its tourism marketing arm, the Zimbabwe Tourism Authority, is to promote the development of tourism products and to create awareness of the same so as to increase visitations and thereby tourism revenue,” he said.
Ndlovu said the development of tourist resorts and destinations is undertaken by the private and public sectors as well as communities.
“Since time immemorial, Mereki has been an area for entertainment, where people gather for braai, eating and having drinks in different social groupings such as family and friends,” he said.
”What is interesting to note and from our investigation is that this has always been an informal place and not even recognised by the local authority as evidenced by the regular eviction of the people that ply their business there.”
Ndlovu said Mereki continued to offer a rare township tourism experience to locals and foreigners.
“So, in terms of promoting Mereki as a tourist attraction centre, the Zimbabwe Tourism Authority has included it as part of the Harare township tourism product. To this end, there are several tours that have been developed in conjunction with tour operators that include the option of Mereki as an eating place as well as experiencing township tourism,” he said.
“Although Mereki Park is a natural tourism hub, there are issues that have remained outstanding, which include, among other things, proper ablution facilities, sitting area and proper parking space and most worrisome, collection of refuse.”
Ndlovu said discussions had been ongoing with the City of Harare on how best to improve the area.
He added that attempts to formalise the place through either forming co-operatives or registering it as a community-based tourism project in order for it to comply with tourism legislation had failed.
“It is important that the local authorities attend to this and other similar places ( like Zindoga) if they are to flourish as tourism centres,” Ndlovu said.
“It is our desire as government and ministry to promote all centres and areas that lead towards the full realisation of a vibrant domestic tourism industry.”
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