Protea Hotels has bowed to public pressure and withdrawn its application to build an ultra-modern 144-bed conference hotel on the banks of the Zambezi River in Zambia right opposite Mana Pools National Park and World Heritage Site.
In a press statement released on 13th April 2010, Protea's Cape Town-based Director of Revenue Management, Sales and Marketing, Danny Bryer, announced:
"Protea Hotels has taken the decision to withdraw its application for development of a proposed hotel in the Lower Zambezi region.
Having engaged in a comprehensive Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) and taken cognizance of the concerns raised we have decided not to progress, taking the view that further clarity on the matter is needed.
Protea Hotels currently has five properties in Zambia and is committed to further investment. We will continue to have productive and meaningful dialogue with the Zambian authorities on further development in the country"
The controversial development raised a public outcry sparked by conservationists and wilderness tour operators, who believe that it will have disastrous consequences on the Zambezi River environment and on tourism to an unique area famous for its wildlife and wilderness experiences.
Outraged Mana Pools fans, calling for a boycott of Protea Hotels, created a Facebook group SAVE MANA POOLS which attracted over 9000 members in 10 days!
They argue that the impacts of such a development, which would double the current number of visitors to the area, are far greater than the benefits to the Chiawa community in Zambia, which the hotel group has been emphasising in its publicity. They are also outraged that Protea Hotels have apparently ignored the impacts of their proposed development on one of Zimbabwe's prime wildlife tourism areas, some 300 metres away across the Zambezi River.