Isdore Guvamombe Assistant Editor
Since the coming into power of the new political dispensation, the tourism and hospitality industry has been enjoying a purple patch, due to positive perception and international re-engagement.
Tourism receipts have been growing by each day and as we speak there are indications that bookings for the Christmas and New Year holidays have started in earnest for hotels in Victoria Falls, and the indications are that they could fill up by end of September.
It is against this background that the Zimbabwe Tourism Authority next week hosts the 12th edition of the premier business exchange, Sanganai/Hlanganani Travel and Tourism Expo.
Buyers, tourist wholesalers and exhibitors started arriving in the country yesterday and will be treated to a plethora of pre-event activities which include visiting Zimbabwe’s vast tapestry of tourist resorts.
Some will also remain behind after the expo to tour the country and create their own perceptions, good perceptions on Zimbabwe that they will sell to the world.
Sanganai/Hlanganani — World Travel and Tourism Africa Fair is an annual tourism trade fair organised by the ZTA to showcase Zimbabwe’s tourism offerings to world acclaimed tourist wholesalers, governments, tourism boards and investors.
One of its major components is speed dating, or speed interaction where buyers and exhibitors are given a platform to meet over five minutes and exchange addresses for future internations.
Being the biggest tourism exposition in Southern Africa, outside the Indaba of South Africa, Sanganai/Hlanganani showcases the widest variety of Africa’s best tourism products, and attracts international visitors and media from across the world.
This is precisely the reason why it is known as the place “Where the World Meets Africa”.
Running from September 12-14, Sanganai/Hlanganani brings tourist wholesalers, buyers, investors and prospective investors from source markets all over the world and is a vital platform to feed into Vision 2030.
To this end, this year’s edition of Sanganai/Hlanganani brings on board 150 high quality international buyers as the emphasis is on quality and not quantity.
Buyers, in tourism language, are people who negotiate and buy into Meetings, Incentive Travel, Conferences and Exhibitions (MICE), linking the events to needy tourists and corporates throughout the world.
Acting ZTA chief executive Mr Givemore Chidzidzi and his team have left no stone unturned as they prepare for the edition in Bulawayo, cognisant of the fact that tourism is the next best tool for perception management.
Sanganai/Hlanganani is by far the biggest travel and tourism expo, that brings in businesspeople from all over the world and there is no doubt that the benefits of hosting it are have more far-reaching effects than many outside the tourism industry envisage.
That at least 25 international media organisations and 170 international exhibitors from Europe, Asia and Africa have confirmed attending the 12th edition of Sanganai/Hlanganani Travel and Tourism Expo slated for Bulawayo next week, gives credence to Zimbabwe’s international engagement and perception management programmes that feed into Vision 2030.
Once a tourist comes into a country and enjoys all the tapestries, he/she automatically becomes an ambassador for the country.
ZTA has also flaunted incentives to ensure that more exhibitors and buyers attend the tourism extravaganza. For instance, first time exhibitors have been given a 50 percent discount on stand fees. This is one of the best incentives.
The Government should, therefore, leverage on the tourism extravaganza and that brings local and international businesspeople to market not only its vision but the process that leads to the attainment of the vision.
Suffice to say in the past 12 years, Sangani/Hlanganani has grown from strength to strength and was moved from Harare to Bulawayo after ZTA discovered that Harare did not have a suitable venue.
When well marketed the tourism extravaganza is a good entry point for marketing Zimbabwe outside mainstream politics.
Of great importance is the fact that ZTA has packaged Sanganai/Hlanganani in a manner that it becomes a serious tool for both business and perception management.
Many of the international buyers and exhibitors are coming into the country early so that they sample the country’s tourism tapestries from the mighty Victoria Falls, the craggy Eastern Highlands, the Great Zimbabwe up to the national parks teeming with pristine wildlife, among others.
Arrangements have also been made to ensure that those buyers who do not have time before the expo, be given time in the aftermath to visit all tourist resorts in the country.
It has been known the world over that tourism is critical for opening up investment opportunities and for telling the story of each destination.
The time has come, therefore, for Zimbabwe to use the platform offered by Sanganai/Hlanganani as a vital cog in the bigger machinery that is meant to drive the country to Vision 2030. The fact that the buyers and exhibitors are coming from as far and wide as Europe, Asia, Africa in general and the Sadc region in particular, makes it a good platform for all and sundry to understand the beauty of Zimbabwe from its tourism offering to its people.
Obviously, the big picture is that the people are the best assets of each country.
The fair is the successor of Shanyai/Vakatshani, the Zimbabwe International Travel Expo 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.
The past four editions of Sanganai/ Hlanganani were a resounding success and attracted the leading African destinations.
Also major world tourism markets such as South Africa, Botswana, Malaysia, China, Zambia, Malawi, Kenya, Indonesia, Italy and many others have also exhibited at the ever growing fair.
The editions have seen the whole world converge in Zimbabwe in the form of high calibre international buyers as well as exhibitors, hence achieving its main purpose of bringing the world to Africa, “Where the World Meets Africa”.
That Sanganai/ Hlanganani has over the years become one of the most sought after tourism and travel expos, cannot be doubted and it is time to embrace it and use it to promote the Vision 2030.
We must take the opportunity to ensure that every exhibitor and buyer who attends Sanganai/Hlanganani becomes our brand ambassador.
They should speak good about our country and indeed our intentions. We are not a bad country. Our country is beautiful and can match any other country as a tourist destination. We have a great country that needs our unity of purpose and Sanganai/Hlanganani just provides that platform that we should use it to show the world out there that we hold our own in every nice and responsible manner; in a united manner, thanks to the ZTA for giving us the opportunity to showcase to the world what we have.
ZTA has done a very good job to put together the expo. The ball is now in our court to make sure that it works. It calls for all and sundry to take advantage of this opportunity and showcase what Zimbabwe offers to the world.