TOURISM operators in Zimbabwe should fully support the Hlanganani/Sanganai Travel Expo aimed at developing the local tourism sector, industry officials have said.
The expo, to be hosted from September 27 to October 1 in Bulawayo this year, is the country’s premier showcase that is now officially recognised on the world tourism calendar and has been successfully hosted every year for the past decade.
The travel and tourism fair targets local and international exhibitors among them national tourism boards, embassies, international airlines, leading hotel chains and government ministries.
It provides tourism stakeholders from all over the world with a chance to meet and network while showcasing the widest variety of Africa’s best tourism products and attracting international visitors and media from across the world.
Organisers of the event, the Zimbabwe Tourism Authority (ZTA), urged industry actors especially those in the host city, Bulawayo to participate at the fair so that they meet with international buyers.
“I want to challenge the community of Bulawayo to surpass the 70 that participated at the Sanganai last year. Why can’t we surpass that? We have to surpass the number 70 so that we are counted. I think 70 was a good number out of 209 for a start but we think this year we should be above 100,” said Karikoga Kaseke, ZTA CEO.
“If assuming that no more people register from now until Sanganai starts, we will have only 19 operators from Bulawayo participating in Sanganai and that would be a disaster.
“I think even if you do whatever you can do to detain Sanganai, the organisers of the event might have second thoughts. “People of Bulawayo we are challenging you to turnaround the statistics from 70 to at least 100.”
So far, 50 exhibitors have booked space out of the targeted 250, Kaseke said. Last year, they had targeted 200 exhibitors and they surpassed the target.
About 66 international buyers have confirmed participation. Ten are from the European Union, two from America, 15 from China-Asian Pacific and 39 from Africa.
Zimbabwe Council of Tourism president Tichaona Hwingwiri said the fair should be supported as it was crucial for the growth of the tourism industry.
“It’s a very significant experience for our country, Zimbabwe,” he said. “It will bring international buyers and local operators will have opportunities to negotiate for long term deals. “We really look forward to those interactions and to build foundation for the future.
“We will also assist with affordable rates. We urge operators who are residents of Bulawayo to come and showcase their products. Let them come out in their numbers and do their best.”
Kaseke said first and second time exhibitors who exhibited for free last year would be offered the same incentive this year. “In order to give every operator an opportunity to meet with international buyers and the Sanganai/Hlanganani, all first time exhibitors would be given free stands to exhibit while those who exhibited for free last year would also exhibit for free this year,” he said.
“This will happen until Sanganai has grown to the level that we want it to grow.” Some of the operators who spoke to Standardbusiness said they were not aware of the expo while some said they would not attend due to financial challenges.
“Some of us don’t even know that there is Sanganai,” Skha’s Interior Décor director, Sikhangezile Dlamini said. Catering Solutions functions co-ordinator, Thandiwe Chisiri said while they would be delighted to participate in this year’s Hlanganani/Sanganai Travel Expo, it was not possible to do so due to scheduling and budgetary constraints.
“As a business, we look forward to participating next year,” she said. “However, in my personal capacity I will make every effort as the diary permits to attend this year.
“We are hopeful that this year’s event will be a resounding success.”
Zimbabwe International Trade Fair Company marketing and public relations manager, Stella Nkomo said they were more than prepared to host the expo.
“Our venue, the Zimbabwe International Exhibition Centre is available and adaptable to any use throughout the year for all our customers.
“We are always ready to host any function, big or small because of the versatility of our venue,” she said.
“We have no problem at all hosting Sanganai/Hlanganani, which has become part and parcel of our exhibitions calendar.
“We remain committed to hosting the show successfully as this is part of our broader strategy of positioning ourselves as the country’s leading exhibitions and events manager in the meetings, incentives, conventions and exhibitions industry.”
Nkomo said they would make sure that exhibitors had a hassle free exhibition experience, and that the venue was up to their expectations.
The city’s public relations officer, Nesisa Mpofu said there was need to undertake awareness campaigns for the generality of the Bulawayo community in order to increase support for the expo.
“More than anything there is need to develop a strong partnership between the city and the Zimbabwe Tourism Authority,” Mpofu said.
“The economic environment currently prevailing will obviously affect potential exhibitors but it is however gratifying that the ZTA has gone out of its way to offer incentives to participants, going as far as to grant free exhibition space.”
She said Bulawayo stood to benefit immensely from hosting the expo as it would raise its profile from a tourism and economic development perspective.
“The local hospitality industry stands to benefit from increased occupancy of their facilities and the entire tourism service industries including the informal sector should benefit from the many exhibitors and visitors,” Mpofu said.
“On a national level, there will be significant inflows of forex from foreign participants.”
Mpofu said ZTA had assured the Bulawayo business community that there would be a deliberate preferential policy to engage local business for service contracts.
This would result in the much needed employment creation for the duration of the expo, she said.
The fair is the successor of Shanyai/Vakatshani, the Zimbabwe International Travel Expo (ZITE) that was held annually at the Harare International Conference Centre. ZITE started as a small expo in 1982 and grew over the years to become one of Africa’s leading tourism showcases by 2007.
Ever since the fair was launched ten years back, it has boosted tourist arrivals by 700 000, according to Kaseke.
But by comparison, Malaysia which launched its ‘Malaysia Truly Asia’ brand at the same time, increased arrivals by 26 million over the same period.
In 2016, Zimbabwe received 2,1 million tourists, up from 2,06 million in 2015 and earned the country $890 million, according to latest ZTA statistics.
BY MTHANDAZO NYONI