By Byron Mutingwende
Bulawayo, like any other city in Zimbabwe is normally quiet mid-week save for some vendors selling their wares on the pavements and shouting on the top of their voices to attract buyers. The second largest city was the country’s industrial hub over a decade ago, but the economic malaise that started at the turn of the new millennium has caused the shutting down of many factories that provided jobs to thousands of citizens. The city has found a new vibe during the Sanganai/Hlangnani Tourism Expo which has brought together people from all corners of the globe.
Sugar Chagonda, the Head of Corporate Affairs of the Zimbabwe Tourism Authority (ZTA) while speaking to journalists at Bulawayo Rainbow Hotel said preparations to host the 10th edition of Sanganai/Hlanganani World Tourism Expo 2017 were now at an advanced stage with all the designated exhibition space now fully booked at the Zimbabwe International Trade Fair in Bulawayo.
“We have on record 350 exhibitors, 224 international buyers and 24 international media that have confirmed their participation. The 10th edition will see the introduction of speed networking sessions earmarked at enhancing interaction between international buyers and exhibitors,” Chagonda said, beaming with confidence that the showcase would bring tangible benefits to the Bulawayo community and the nation at large.
To date 350 exhibitors have registered compared to 236 who attended the 2016 edition which is a 48% growth in exhibitor numbers. The majority of the exhibitors are from Bulawayo. Businesses are booming since there are 56 participants offering accommodation, 37 tour operators, 17 publicity associations and rural councils, 26 service providers and suppliers to the tourism industry and 99 small and media enterprises, just to mention a few.
“Let me hasten to say that 150 of this year’s exhibitors are from Bulawayo compared to 95 who participated at the 2016 edition. There is a significant growth in first time participants from 54 companies that were first timers last year to 85 exhibitors who will be participating for the first time at the 2017 edition. All the space has been taken. Sanganai is now fully subscribed. However, we continue to waitlist those who are interested in case we have some last minute drop outs.”
This year’s edition has received an increase in international representation. To date 11 countries represented by 29 foreign exhibitors will be exhibiting compared to 8 countries who participated in 2016 represented by 30 individual companies.
First-time exhibitors include Hospitality Association of Botswana which will exhibit with 10 operators from Botswana under their banner and the Ghana Tourism Board who are coming with their tour operators. The South Africa Tourism Board returns after over a decade of absence at the show. They last participated before Sanganai/Hlanganani was rebranded.
Countries from Africa and the Middle East top the list of international buyers and media personnel as they total 113, those from Europe are 34, Americas 20 while 57 are from China, Asia and the Pacific. There will be a welcome cocktail on the 28th of September. Finance minister, Patrick Chinamasa will officially open the expo on 29 September while awards are slated for the 30th of September 2017.
Tich Hwingwiri, the President of the Zimbabwe Council for Tourism, in his message earlier, said the annual Sanganayi/Hlanganani International Travel Expo is a platform for the Zimbabwean travel and tourism sector to highlight its many attractions.
“We in Zimbabwe have a great many attractions, all of which deserve to gain increasing tourist attention, and increased numbers of visitors will provided a much-needed economic boost to the country as a whole. We welcome the buyers and media who are here to interact with exhibitors at the expo and who will also visit some of the attractions to which I have referred,” Hwingiri said.
The United Nations World Tourism Organisation theme for 2017 focuses on the sustainability of tourism and its effect on national and international economic development. He said tourism sector players are fully aware of the role they must play not only in recognising the importance of this theme but in taking action that ensures sustainability and growth.
“Victoria Falls has enjoyed a successful high season during 2017 and it is to be hoped that this trend of increased tourist arrivals will continue into the future. What we must now try to achieve is to extend that increased level of business across the country, so that the many other attractions will benefit accordingly. The Zimbabwe Council for Tourism is working with all relevant partners to stimulate such growth.”
Zimbabwe is recognised as the home of the Victoria Falls and is the country’s primary tourist attraction – a magnificent natural wonder of the world. But there is a great deal more to Zimbabwe: its national parks, game reserves and sanctuaries, Lake Kariba, the Mana Pools World Heritage Site, Great Zimbabwe and various other historic sites, the Matobo Hills – also a World Heritage site, the Eastern Highlands, the south-eastern Lowveld and so much more.
Innocent Nezungai, the Director of the School of Hospitality and Tourism urged the media to promote domestic and inter-Africa tourism in the global village.