UAE’s Albwardy eager to invest more in tourism President Mnangagwa officially opened the rebranded and extensively transformed facility saying the coming of international brands like Hyatt Regency was an endorsement of his administration and Zimbabwe as a good and safe destination for foreign investment.

Golden Sibanda

ALBWARDY Investment, which owns Hyatt Regency The Meikles Harare, has expressed willingness to further invest in Zimbabwe’s tourism industry following its  acquisition in 2020.

The United Arab Emirates (UAE) investment holding company operates global businesses across sectors that include hospitality, food, distribution, logistics, engineering, construction, commercial and insurance.

Before its takeover by Albwardy Investment, The Meikles Hotel had 312 guest bedrooms and two restaurants, but has undergone extensive renovations and rebranding to global standards.

The UAE company paid US$20 million to acquire the iconic asset, easily Harare’s best hotel facility, despite the financial challenges that forced previous owners, the Moxon Group to sell.

Albwardy Investment founder, Ali Albwardy revealed the company’s plans to expand investments in Zimbabwe during the official opening of the Hyatt Regency The Meikles Harare, formerly The Meikles Hotel on Monday.

Zimbabwe’s hospitality sector has about 6 600 room capacity, but the Hospitality Association of Zimbabwe says at the current pace of growth, the industry requires about 20 000 rooms, which means significant legroom for fresh investments.

President Mnangagwa officially opened the rebranded and extensively transformed facility saying the coming of international brands like Hyatt Regency was an endorsement of his administration and Zimbabwe as a good and safe destination for foreign investment.

He noted that, given Zimbabwe’s history and challenges over the last couple of decades, not many foreign investors had, until recently, been willing to do business in the country despite the limitless opportunities it offers.

The President however, pointed out that foreign investments were legally protected and safe in Zimbabwe while the legal framework also existed for the easy repatriation of profits offshore.

He was accompanied by Vice Presidents Constantino Chiwenga and Kembo Mohadi, Defence Minister Oppah Muchinguri, Finance, Economic Development, Investment Promotion Minister Professor Mthuli Ncube, Tourism and Hospitality Minister Barbra Rwodzi and Chief Secretary to the President and Cabinet Dr Martin Rushwaya, among others.

Several who’s and who of the tourism industry, including Zimbabwe Tourism Council chief executive Paul Matamisa, attended the historic event yesterday.

Moxon Group chairman John Moxon was also among the luminaries who witnessed a new era herald for the country and the rebranded hotel in a development expected to further lift Zimbabwe’s standing on the global hospitality map.

Jokingly, the President said Mr Moxon would not recognise many areas of the property if he toured it, demonstrating the extensive facelift the hotel has witnessed.

“Last year alone, we realised a 34 percent increase in tourism sector arrivals, exceeding the pre-Covid-19 arrivals. The entry of the Hyatt Regency brand in Zimbabwe is yet another testament and a vote of confidence in the Brand Zimbabwe; The World of Wonders,” he said.

The sector, President Mnangagwa noted, had witnessed growth in both inflows and quality of investments since the Second Republic assumed power in 2017.

For instance, official data show that investments in tourism and hospitality jumped from US$142 million in 2021 to US$301 million in 2022.

Mr Albwardy said the coming into Zimbabwe of renowned hotel brand, Hyatt Regency, under a management contract, not only marked the recalibration of The Meikles Hotel but also enabled its transformative rebranding to global standards.

The attendance by President Mnangagwa, Mr Albwardy said, demonstrated his strong support for the project, following assurances the Head of State gave him in Dubai, encouraging him to invest in Zimbabwe.

“I am glad that we have managed to recalibrate this historical hotel without closing its doors (which has not happened) since (its establishment) 109 years ago. 

“As Albwardy Investment, we love Zimbabwe and its people and see great potential in tourism.

“We are eager to further invest in the future of tourism in this country. As we step into the new era, we invite each of you to continue to visit and enjoy the facility that (Hyatt Regency) The Meikles has to offer,” he said.

Speaking at the same event, Hyatt head, Africa, Europe and The Middle East, Javier Aguila, said the opening of Hyatt Regency The Meikles Harare was the brand’s first experience in Zimbabwe.

“This hotel was and is already an icon in Harare. As Mr Albwardy said, it is 109 years old and has never closed its doors since 1915, even during Covid-19, which is very remarkable, not many hotels were able to do that.

“The Meikles will remain in the (hotel’s) name to celebrate the legacy it has created and will continue to shine throughout the hotel,” he said. 

He said Hyatt Regency had a 50-year history and more than 40 properties in Europe, The Middle East and Africa and a global presence of 220 properties.

“I am very positive that with the strength of the Hyatt Regency brand and its 46 million loyalty members . . ., the legacy of The Meikles and our extraordinary teams, this continues to be a success story,” Mr Aguila said.

He said Hyatt Regency The Meikles hotel would place Zimbabwe on the international map and beacon in the Zimbabwe hotel market, adding, as in the national mantra, championed by President Mnangagwa, “We are open for business”.

Tourism and Hospitality Minister Barbra Rwodzi said the strategic vision for Zimbabwe to transition to an upper middle-income economy by 2030 and tourism was one of the key sectors towards achieving the grand vision.

“The objective is to grow the tourism and hospitality industry beyond the US$5 billion mark. This shall be attained through deliberate and increased focus on our heritage, as the key determinant for comparative advantage.

“We believe the tourism and hospitality industry cluster framework shall be a unique innovation in our development and promotion programmes. 

“The chief enablers of these programmes include one; a sound legal infrastructure; two a well-trained workforce and human capital infrastructure, number three; a good financial infrastructure, and most critically; a robust physical infrastructure.

“What we are witnessing is the development and delivery of a robust physical infrastructure for the tourism and hospitality industry, as well as a strong human capital infrastructure,” she said.

Minister Rwodzi said the President’s guiding grand vision was behind the latest developments, which have brought international brands into Zimbabwe’s tourism and hospitality industry.

“The Hyatt Regency The Meikles Harare serves as a clear example of the manifestation of your grand vision and it is an example and clear confirmation that Zimbabwe is open for business,” she said.

The tourism industry, Minister Rwodzi, revealed, was the third largest contributor to the country’s economic growth.

Hyatt Hotels Corporation, commonly known as Hyatt Hotels and Resorts, is an American multinational hospitality company headquartered in the Riverside Plaza area of Chicago that manages and franchises luxury and business hotels, resorts, and vacation properties.

Hyatt Hotels and Resorts is one of the businesses managed by the Pritzker family. Hyatt has more than 1 350 hotels and all-inclusive properties in 69 countries across six continents.

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