Cresta Lodge, situated between Eastlea and Msasa, is undergoing a US$6 million expansion expected to result in an additional conference facility expe-cted to be functional by the third quarter of 2012 as well as refurbishment of rooms and other facilities within the coming year.
Money for the project was sourced locally from BancABC and construction is expected to commence by the end of this month. A South African company, Chattels, assisted by a local constructor, ZICON, have been awarded the contract for the new conference facility development. Tower Construction have been awarded the bedroom refurbishment contract.
A ground-breaking ceremony for the conference centre, witnessed by Tourism Minister Walter Mzembi, was held on site last week and workmen were already on ground this week, mapping out dimensions for the new building and uprooting the only tree that will be affected by the new facility.
"The rest of the flora and fauna will be left to blend in with the Crest Lodge tradition of wide open spaces," Glenn Stutchbury, chief operating officer of Cresta Hotels Zimbabwe, told The Financial Gazette's Property.
At the end of the project, Stutchbury says, the three-star establishment would boast of a state-of-the-art conference centre, capable of holding a conference of up to 300 people, a dinner-dance of 240 people or a cocktail party of 450 people.
The new conference centre, he says, will also offer a dining solution for the Lodge's existing conference block adjacent to this new venue and all up to date necessary conferencing equipment will be available to clients.
"The Conference Centre is one part of the overall Cresta Lodge refurbishment project. We are spending a total of US$6 million on the entire Cresta Lodge project; the Conference Centre accounts for $750?000 of that budget. The impact and value the project will have on the hotel are vast.
"We will be in a competitive position to host international conferences, events and functions, as well as provide top-rate accommodation for the guests and delegates of these functions," he added.
Under the massive refurbishment project, all the 171 rooms will be renovated as well as the main restaurant, bar, reception area and coffee shop.
In addition, a new state-of- the-art gym, currently housing the board room will be part of this project.
Ever since opening its doors to the public in March 1993, Cresta Lodge had never had a refurbishment exercise to this magnitude and Stutchbury beli-eves the time is right for additional conference facilities at the hotel.
"The Cresta Hotel Group is positive about the resurgence of commercial and leisure tourism in Zimbabwe, and we have determined the demand and growth in MICE - Meetings, Incentives, Conferences and Exhibitions is going to be significant in Harare. We are excited to improve our product and service and become a market leader in the Zimbabwe Conference Sector," he said.
According to Stutchbury, the development is in line with the Cresta Group's regional focus of capturing the business clientele that demand functional facilities on the go, while enjoying the comfort of their warm hospitality. The Cresta Lodge, he says, is conveniently situated as it is close to the Harare CBD and easily links up to the Harare International Airport through Glenara, Samora Machel and Robert Mugabe Roads.
He added that: "In the Cresta Hotel Group, our main target clientele is the business traveller and executive. We gear our products and services to meet the demands and needs of men and women who conduct business all over the Southern African region. There will be a permanent executive boardroom in the conference centre in hopes of attracting company meetings of this nature."
"Having said that, we also have certain products that appeal to the leisure client. Our Cresta Mowana Safari Resort and Spa on the banks of the Chobe River in Botswana fits this bill. This is a 4 star luxury vacation spot that rivals any in Southern Africa. We also have several products that serve as 'stopover spots' for long distance travellers like our hotels Maun, Francistown and Bulawayo."
Under this project, the Cresta Group is taking advantage of incentives introduced by the ministries of Finance and Tourism and Hospitality through Statutory Instrument SI 125, for duty-free imports for the tourism and hospitality developments in the country. Stutchbury said this assists greatly with us acquiring state-of-the-art equipment and technology that are commensurate with the group's development strategy in the region. "The Cresta Jameson Hotel here in Harare is currently undergoing critical upgrades, and renovations have been completed recently on the Cresta Churchill Hotel in Bulawayo. We have also just completed refurbishment and rebranding and re-launched our Cresta Golfview Hotel in Lusaka, Zambia."
Stutchbury said it was the Crest Group's belief that manpower development was as important as the expansion and refurbishment exercise, therefore the need for more skills enhancement with the existing workforce and we are very cognisant of the need for skills enhancement and have embarked on two initiatives to develop and improve the quality of service, these are the ISO 9000 procedures and the Lobster Ink online learning programs."