COMMENT: All Zimbabweans must be ambassadors of their country

The Chronicle

THE country’s top tourism and travel fair, Sanganai/Hlanganani World Tourism Expo ends today having started on Thursday.

The exposition returned this year after its cancellation over the past two years of the Covid-19 pandemic. In that period, of course, the world was under lockdown, with curbs on international travelling so it was impossible to stage the event, like other big gatherings.

This year’s, the 15th edition in the exposition’s history, is underway at the Zimbabwe International Exhibition Centre in Bulawayo under theme, “Thinking Investment — Explore Zimbabwe Tourism Opportunities.” More than 270 participants are participating, surpassing the target of 250.

Six African countries — South Africa, Rwanda, Mozambique, Zambia, Botswana and Malawi — are exhibiting at this year’s expo. South Africa has the largest number of exhibitors (10). Rwanda has five exhibitors while Zambia has four and Mozambique seven.

Coming as it does after the disruptive pandemic, we are optimistic that the event will stimulate a resurgence that we all want of this key industry in our economy.  In 2019, national tourism receipts amounted to US$1,24 billion, a peak at the time. However, with restrictions in domestic and foreign travel, receipts shrunk to US$359 million in 2020 before recovering a little to US$397 million in 2021.  

With the world completely reopening this year, revenues must continue recovering.  But revenues cannot recover without a recovery in arrivals since the more the arrivals, the greater the spending. This must help drive the sector’s contribution to the economy to the Government-set milestone of US$5 billion by 2025.

Already, according to official statistics, the country has recorded 352 719 tourist arrivals in the first-half of the year, up 115 percent from 164 062 during the corresponding period last year with a majority of the visitors coming in from the USA and UK.  

We have no doubt that this year’s exposition and the general up-tick that must happen as the Covid-19 pandemic ebbs, will help propel the industry, and the economy at large towards the 2025 target and beyond.  

Our country is a massive tourism destination. It is blessed with unique attractions led, obviously, by Victoria Falls.  We have the Big Five and countless other species at Hwange, Gonarezhou, Chizarira and other national parks and conservancies. We have the Great Zimbabwe Monument, Khami Ruins, the Matopos, the Eastern Border Highlands, Lake Kariba and Mana Pools and many more.

Our hospitality sector, which moves on tourism, has some of the globe’s best establishments to cater for the well-heeled tourist to the backpacker.  

Mhlelusizo Ncube (left) admires some beads wares at a Women in Tourism stand during the ongoing SanganaiHlanganai Expo at ZITF yesterday……Pic By Dennis Mudzamiri…

Above all, Zimbabweans are a hospitable people, generally speaking. More specifically, its citizens who work in the tourism and hospitality industry are adept at their jobs.  

“Zimbabwe is fantastic and Victoria Falls is out of this world,” said a Nigerian travel and tour agent, Ms Julie Tongrit who is in Bulawayo for the fair.  

“I have never really known Zimbabwe to be this rich when it comes to tourism.  Being a first-timer in Zimbabwe, it’s really fascinating. I now have something concrete to sell to my clients. I was not able to sell Zimbabwe because I was not sure what was available. I have visited Victoria Falls and Hwange National Park and some many lodges and I now have a new product to sell completely different from what I normally sell.”

Caterers from Zimparks at their stand during the ongoing SanganaiHlanganani Expo at ZITF yesterday…

A buyer from the United Arab Emirates (UAE), Mr Zaim Muhammad, who is a managing partner at Red Berry Travel and Tours said there is immense potential for the sector to compete favourably globally.

“Zimbabwe is a great destination and has a lot of potential. From what I have seen in Bulawayo, Matopo National Park and Victoria Falls I will be in a better position to offer an attractive package to UAE clients and Pakistan,” he said.

We urge Ms Tongrit and Mr Muhammad and other participants to, after today, intensify their marketing of Zimbabwe as an outstanding tourist destination that it is so that the industry can grow; the economy can grow. All Zimbabweans — not just the Zimbabwe Tourism Authority and the tourism and hospitality industry — must also be ambassadors of their country.

Article Source: The Chronicle

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