By Shingirai Vambe
The just ended Zimbabwe Tourism Authority (ZTA) organized business expo has been described as a poorly planned event by both exhibitors and buyers.
The tourism expo had over 250 exhibitors who included local authorities, tourism and hospitality industry players, road and air transport regulators and operators.
Buyers who spoke to Post on Sunday were very excited, some being first time visitors to Zimbabwe while others coming for such an event and experiencing few activities and resorts in the southern African country.
One Mozambican who spoke on condition of anonymity said it was surprising that the movement was low, as 20 percent of exhibitors were not at their stands and some stands were apparently empty. She said the number of buyers was too low and exhibitors would have lost a good fortune as they may fail to get value for money.
She went further and queried on the selection criteria citing the relaxed and holiday mode in which some buyers exhuded.
She also highlighted unprofessionalism from the Authority given her experience and exposure to other expos in neighboring countries and abroad.
Other Exhibitors were happy with the selection, saying almost every country was represented, the only challenge being that of showcasing the already known places, leaving out places which define Zimbabwe. They went further to express her disappointment with the food.
“I came here, want to eat Zimbabwean food, experience your culture, see the Great Zimbabwe, Matendera ruins and monuments and not sleeping in hotels and eating buffets which are western meals, ” said one South African buyer.
The lady from South Africa said the ZTA team should have engaged event planners citing late preparations of exhibition stands to which buyers flocked in before set up was completed having some still wet with paint while others were sweeping.
“There is information gap between the team from the authority and destinations in Zimbabwe, as we anticipate good sales of local products, before, during and after Sanganai many of them are not acquainted the their local products hence the need for bench-making for players, media and the authority,” she added.
Majority of the buyers who had come during the previous tourism Expo asked for former Chief Executive, Karikoga Kaseke after a poorly time managed cocktail which had long speeches that made some buyers to walk out and resorted to have their evening meal at the hotel before going out for drinks at a local bar and lounge and in Bulawayo.
Tourism Business Council of Zimbabwe (TBCZ) said challenges which had been experienced during the 2022 Expo were probably as a result of a 2 year break due to the Covid-19 pandemic, and expecting a better preparation process and planning next year.
“In my view some of the exhibitors only came to support and see if it was a worth investing in the program,” said TBCZ.
The board also added that the preparation of exhibition stands was poorly done, as some exhibitors ended up having bigger stands which they had not budgeted for, causing the stand to be less attractive while other got small when they had actually paid for a bigger stand.
Majority of exhibitors, local tourism players claim they have been neglected by the media, which is failing to give full coverage and showcase their products. However one of the major issues raised during the expo was that of licenses even after the Zimbabwe Revenue Authority (ZIMRA) breakfast meeting.
The online registration process was also cited as a challenge to many and requested that, the creator should test run and see if it’s palatable before sharing to consumers.
Players in the tourism industry continue to pressure ZTA to look into the issue of the 2% tax and use thereof.
They also claim current licensing system and their number are making Zimbabwe an expensive destination as players are forced to charge fees which will cover for all their license expenses.
Just before the Expo, ZTA met with the immigration officials to allow smooth flow of business at every point of entry, and it was during the expo that another buyer highlighted that the time for 1 to cross from Botswana would be 5min while it will be an hour to get into Zimbabwe.
Immigration assured the Authority that such issues will be addressed and systems will be put in place. Due to unforeseen challenges a good amount of money has been kept out of the country that was meant to improve service at the ports of entry and airports in Zimbabwe Airports Company of Zimbabwe can confirm.
The two day tourism and business expo was officially opened by the first lady, Auxillia Mnangagwa, Friday evening and on Saturday, gates were opened to the public whom majority happen not to know what was happening at the Zimbabwe International trade fair ground from the 13t to the 15th of October 2022.
Some told this publication that the low turn-out was due to the global and country’s economic status as a result of covid-19 and Russia-Ukraine war which is directly and indirectly affecting majority of the countries on planet.
Because of resource constraints the country used to produce and satisfactorily export to Africa and other European countries.
A buyer from America said tourism in Zimbabwe is on the recovery path, but much is need to be done as some of the buyers are also coming to see if the environment is now conducive to visit while tapping other source markets than those previously known.
“It’s my first time to be in Zimbabwe, I’m very much excited and from what I see, it’s a move towards a right direction. More is needed to be done, this is a stepping stone to a better and more refined Sanganai in 2023,”she said.
Former minister of Tourism and Hospitality, Walter Mzembi told Post On Sunday that the problem is politicization of everything. Tourism should be spared from politics and with it overt over propaganda. Once you do that the sector responds to the politics and you lose it.
He added that notwithstanding a love hate relationship with Kaseke, he demanded results and they came.