The year 2020 edition of the Sanganai/Hlanganani World Tourism Expo is being held virtually in response to the coronavirus pandemic that has prevented the gathering of many people in a face-to-face interface, Hon Mangaliso Ndlovu, the Minister of Environment, Climate, Tourism and Hospitality Industry has said.
He alluded to this fact while officially opening the virtual global tourism showcase that is normally held at the Bulawayo’s popular Zimbabwe International Trade Fair.
The minister said in 2019 when the showcase was held in Bulawayo, very few people had anticipated that the pandemic would eventually bring the globe to a halt and ground almost everything, especially the tourism sector.
“When many nations closed their borders, we had hoped and prayed that the lockdowns will be for 3 weeks or a month at most. Again we were to be proven wrong. I am certain that many of us reached a point where we felt helpless as there seemed to be no light at the end of the tunnel.
“The pandemic transformed our lives, the way we do things changed drastically and our priorities have changed. While some may be afraid
to travel again, others are now more determined than ever before to visit all their bucket list destinations while some simply want to get away from lockdowns and explore the world anew,” Hon Ndlovu said.
In Zimbabwe like any other country, one of the ways of curbing the spread of the pandemic is the mandatory wearing of masks. It was uncomfortable at first but with time, people have adjusted to the new normal.
“I suspect that when the time comes when people are no longer required to wear masks, some may find it difficult to not wear them. The point I am driving is that we have learnt to live under the new normal and although they may seem like restrictions they are a necessity.”
The hosting of the Virtual Sanganai/Hlanganani Expo is a much welcome development that is aimed at giving the industry a platform to interface with various source markets.
Hon Ndlovu said the uptake by both exhibitors and buyers is impressive. As the virtual meetings commenced this morning, the platform has allowed for pre-booking of meetings.
Zimbabwe came up with the National Tourism Recovery and Growth Strategy which was launched by His Excellency, the President of the Republic of Zimbabwe, Dr E.D Mnangagwa on 06 August 2020 in Victoria Falls.
The strategy will be a guide for the entire tourism sector going forward as the country emerges from the pandemic. The hosting of the virtual Sanganai/Hlanganani – World Tourism Expo marks the beginning of many such initiatives that seek to position our destination to the local, regional, and international markets.
Running alongside the virtual exhibition are webinar discussions that seek to inform and educate the industry on key issues that will impact on the country’s capacity to recover and grow the tourism sector.
Zimbabwe opened its borders to international travel via its international airports as of 01 October. The gradual reopening of land borders is anticipated in due course.
Hon Ndlovu said the country will constantly keep the markets informed of any developments that will affect their travel plans through the tourism website and social media platforms.
“Currently, to safeguard our travellers and our tourism champions, visitors are expected to provide a negative PCR test on arrival, taken no longer than 48 hours before the time of flight departure. Quarantine for arrivals is not mandatory if the PCR test requirements have been fulfilled. Any arrival that does not fulfill the PCR test requirements will be subject to testing on arrival and mandatory quarantine while awaiting results. The results take at most 48 hours.
“International, regional and domestic flights have resumed in our three of our major airports. We are convinced the return of regional and international flights marks the resumption of regional and international tourism. While we have started taking baby steps towards recovery, it is a journey that we cannot undertake on our own, hence we celebrate the hosting of the virtual Sanganai/Hlanganani Expo as it has brought us together to collectively work in mapping the way forward. My office remains open to both local and international partners who have solutions that will see Zimbabwe emerge as a Must Visit Destination post the pandemic,” he added.
The Minister is certain that with everyone’s involvement, stakeholders will be able to turn what has been a dark period for the sector into a resilient, vibrant, and thriving industry to reality.