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30.08.2013 Travel & Tourism

Taking the Mickey? Zimbabwe proposes Disneyland in Africa

Taking the Mickey? Zimbabwe proposes Disneyland in Africa
LISTEN AUG 30, 2013

Put a stop to poaching, perhaps?
Maybe revive the safari sector with, who knows, nude or biker safaris?

Even build a Robert Mugabe Experience to educate visitors about the African strongman's visionary three-decade rule, complete with pictorial guide to his experimentation with mustaches.

What almost no one expected Zimbabwe to do to revive its tourism sector, crippled by 10 years of internal strife, was to take on Disney with a proposed $300 million theme park at Victoria Falls.

That's the plan the country's tourism and hospitality minister, Walter Mzembi, revealed to the UN World Tourism Organization, the Daily Mail reports.

Occupying 300 acres of land, “Disneyland in Africa,” as Mzembi called it, would house shopping malls, exhibition facilities and casinos.

The problem with Zimbabwe tourism is all the old people in safari suits, the minister explained.

“We need a bit of development [and to] attract the youthful market into this destination. Current visitors are very elderly couples [and] the youth are a bit bored," Zimbabwe state media quoted Mzembi as saying.

"Bizarre, crazy"
“Bizarre” describes the main response from commentators to Zimbabwe's proposed Disneyland-by-Zambezi.

The country has more pressing needs than a theme park, a political analyst, Clifford Mashiri, told SW Radio Africa.

When much of the Zimbabwean population lacks access to basic amenities, such as water and electricity, the plan is “crazy” and “just [an attempt] to divert attention” from Mugabe's political failings, Mashiri said.

The theme park is spectacularly misguided in another sense, according to one Africa travel expert.

"It would be like building a casino beside the pyramids," Lisa Grainger told the Telegraph.

"The reason people visit the falls is because it's unspoiled and natural; it's a glorious part of the Earth. Not because they want to buy candy-floss and be immersed in an American-style theme park."

Skepticism aside, the money being pumped into Zimbabwe tells another story.

Work began this year on a $150 million upgrade of Victoria Falls airport - including a new runway, control tower and terminal building - courtesy of a loan from the Export-Import Bank of China.

And why not, on your way to or from Africa's premier new theme park attraction, do a little (more) shopping?

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