Hifa glides into digital age

ON December 12, 2017, with the Harare International Festival of the Arts (Hifa) still 139 days away, advance tickets for the Opening Show, Opera Gala and Sonic Wonderland 3 went on sale.

Interestingly, organisers also availed online ticket sales, a move that will be welcomed by many in this digital era where electronic payments have become the norm.

Hifa tickets usually go on sale a few days before the event kicks off.

Many top international festivals use this system, with some of them selling out months before the event and only time will tell if this will be the same scenario with the local fête.

An example of an event which uses this system to great effect is Coachella Valley Music & Arts Festival, which usually has its advance tickets selling out just hours after they are released.

After announcing on January 5 through their Twitter handle that the Coachella Valley Music & Arts Festival passes were on sale, organisers tweeted that the passes were no longer available the following day. This is an event that is set to take place in April.

Closer home, the recently held Vic Falls Carnival also starts selling their tickets six months in advance with passes for the Train and Bush Party usually selling out before the event starts.

Speaking to The Sunday Mail Society, Hifa associate executive director Tafadzwa Simba said their aim is to make the experience as efficient and pleasant as possible.

The organisers launched the online ticketing system on a trial basis in order to see how people will respond to it.

“Hifa is launching its online ticket sales capability in earnest this year and it will be done in phases as there are different systems that have to be integrated to make it possible,” said Simba, adding: “There are several obstacles that prevented us from launching an online payment system in the past but we have now established a system that we are still testing. Hifa has always wanted to make tickets available earlier as this also allows people to plan ahead.”

Despite the festival being cited as a major tourist attraction by several players, Simba highlighted that foreigners were not necessarily the primary target audience.

“I want to emphasise that Hifa is not an event created for tourists. We most certainly warmly welcome visitors but the raison d’être of the festival is the celebration and magnification of Zimbabwe through arts and culture.

“Like all truly genuine and world-famous wonders or attractions, they were not created as tourist attractions but their authentic nature is what attracts visitors in the long run.”

Hifa has over the years brought in continental heavyweights to headline the event with the likes of Mi Casa, Salif Keita, Ismael Lo, Rocky Dawuni and Baaba Maal, to name a few, gracing its main stage.

While the organisers have already approached several artistes, Simba could not go into detail citing contractual considerations and the red tape involving vetting and clearance by statutory authorities.

However, names of really exciting and legendary artistes were thrown around during an off-the-record interview.

Unfortunately, the public might have to wait a bit longer for the official announcement.

Simba said festivals provide an opportunity for people to experience and see as many artistic genres as possible rather than just focusing on well-known headlining individuals.

“Hifa would like to encourage audiences to not only focus on headline acts as the whole concept of a festival is to allow people to sample as many different performances and genres as possible. Arts lovers should look out for the whole package at Hifa 2018.”

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