Kiyapili Sibanda, Business Reporter
BULAWAYO hotels are turning away guests due to swelling demand for accommodation as more delegates troop in ahead of the 21st February Movement celebrations slated for this weekend in Matobo, Matabeleland South province.
About 200 000 delegates are expected to attend the 21st February Movement celebrations, an annual event set aside to mark the birthday of President Mugabe and celebrate his legacy.
A veteran revolutionary icon of the liberation struggle, President Mugabe was born on February 21, 1924 and turned 93 on Tuesday.
Hospitality Association of Zimbabwe (HAZ) chairperson, Mrs Faith Makamure said, the hospitality industry has been overwhelmed by guests with some being turned away.
Bulawayo is a convenient accommodation centre given that it is closer to the celebration venue at the Rhodes Estate Preparatory School (Reps) in Matobo District, which is about 30km from the City of Kings.
“The information gathered from local hotels and lodges suggests that all the accommodation is fully booked and some people are being turned away. The response is quite good and the 21st celebrations are a blessing to this region,” said Mrs Makamure.
She said the event had brought extra business to the region outside the sector’s usual calendar.
“We’re very appreciative because this was not a planned event like Christmas or just like any other event that is on the calendar. This will surely boost people and the industry of Bulawayo,” said Mrs Makamure.
She urged the Government to bring big events to Bulawayo as it has the capacity to host any event of such magnitude.
Mrs Makamure also said in order to revive Bulawayo’s industry, there was a need to make use of the resources like the upgraded Joshua Mqabuko Nkomo International Airport, hotels and lodges.
“Big events always go to areas like Victoria Falls and Bulawayo given their capacities like better airports and enough accommodation. Hosting events here will boost the local tourism sector and help revive industry,” the HAZ chairperson said.
“It’s not only the tourism sector that will gain; we talk of local supermarkets here, vendors, the transport sector. Everyone will benefit here and this will help resuscitate industry and make people work again.”
Mrs Makamure praised the recent Cana Zone IV swimming championships that were held in the city saying the event also had a huge impact on their business.
“I think this year we are blessed indeed. First it was the good rains, hosting of swimming games, now we have 21st celebrations. Easter holidays are coming, the Trade Fair is also coming, the same as Sanganai/Hlanganani Expo,” said Mrs Makamure.
She said they (HAZ) were ready for the Zimbabwe International Trade Fair in April as well as hosting the Sanganai/Hlanganani Tourism Expo for the coming three years.
“We’re more than ready for these events and we have the capacity to host any event as the accommodation is sufficient to cater for everyone who will be here and we are glad that we have more than 60 lodges in case hotels are fully booked,” Mrs Makamure said.
This year’s 21st February celebrations will be held under the theme “Honouring our icon, unlocking the value in youth”.