FIRST Capital Bank (FCB) says it is to float international and domestic tenders to find suitable suitors for The Kingdom Hotel in Victoria Falls.
The property fell vacant following the exit of African Sun Limited (ASL) early this year, after operating for 26 years.
Plans were already underway to give the property a facelift before tenders are floated, according to FCB managing director Ciaran McSharry, who spoke exclusively to businessdigest this week.He said FCB will be working with hospitality experts to come up with a facelift plan, before moving on to scout for bidders.
Crucial meetings have been lined up between FCB bosses and the ASL team to tie the loose ends of the transition.McSharry said before ASL terminated its lease, FCB had extended it by two years.
The plan, according to McSharry, was for both sides to have ample time to acquaint with each other following top-level management changes at ASL.But the leisure chain opted out, McSharry said.
“We had offered an extension to Africa Sun for two years while we rebuilt trust with the new management and ourselves,” the FCB boss told businessdigest.
“Africa Sun made a decision that they weren’t happy with the two years and decided that they will surrender the lease, which is fine — that is perfectly ok — and it is within their right to do that. What I would stress is we have a very good working relationship with them now as we manage the transition, as they exit the hotel at the end of the month. They have been incredibly professional and we are working very closely with them,” McSharry added.
He said the property was in “an extremely good condition”, although upgrades to the facility were still important.
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The Kingdom was a jewel in the ASL crown that helped the group attract significant numbers of Chinese tourists after a decision was made to give it a Chinese feel.
It was one of several assets within ASL that was chosen for a tie up with Legacy Hotels — the South African giant — when it entered the Zimbabwean market in 2015.
The deal would later collapse.“We are bringing in international hotel experts to review the hotel and look at what needs to be done,” McSharry said.
“It is called a property improvement plan. When that is done it will allow us to assess the work that needs to get done,” he added.
He said after getting the plan, FCB will then proceed to float tenders.The winning bidder will work with FCB to determine what needs to get done and what role either party will play in the planned refurbishment.
The parties would also set time frames for the project’s completion.But the FCB boss wants speedy execution of the project to bring The Kingdom back to operation as quickly as possible.
“The key point is that we are keen to keep the hotel closure to a minimum. It is in everybody’s interest to do that. It is equally in everybody’s interest to make sure that the hotel is upgraded to a very high standard,” he said.
“We will keep it broadly where it is, but we will have a much-improved product and platform. That is the only way we can maximise the benefit for the town of Victoria Falls, the country and the economy as a whole.”
African Sun occupied the hotel in 1997 and used a US$24 million loan from Barclays Bank now FCB locally to refurbish the facility in 1999, turning it into one of the largest hotels in the country.