ZTA fires salvo at hoteliers

THE Zimbabwe Tourism Authority (ZTA) has castigated some hospitality players for trying to “sabotage Government’s efforts” in reviving the tourism sector. It is alleged that top hotel operators have asked for payment of services from regional and international buyers that are expected to grace Sanganai/Hlanganani World Tourism Expo.

The 10th anniversary celebrations of the expo will run from September 27 to October 1.

ZTA claims that they fly in buyers to sample domestic tourism products with the hope of future recommendations back in their respective countries, thus boosting local business.

In an interview with this publication last week, Dr Karikoga Kaseke said the hospitality industry is failing to realise that the expo is organised for their benefit. Accordingly, he said, they were left with no choice but to adopt measures to force the droopiness out of them.

“The industry has been sporadic in terms of supporting this fair. Going forward, we must amend the laws to force these operators in such cases where we bring delegates for destination marketing to make sure that they are exhorted to support such efforts,” said Dr Kaseke.

Tourism experts interviewed last week opine” “Hospitality players should be grateful to ZTA for bringing them potential buyers/marketers on their doorstep free of charge. Most, if not all, of the buyers would probably have never opted to visit attractions in the province (Bulawayo) ahead of the majestic Victoria Falls. Costs of hosting the few buyers are definitely outweighed by long-term economic benefits.”

Below are excerpts of the interview between our reporter Prince Mushawevato and Dr Kaseke:

Q: What would you like to see change with regards to planning and hosting Sanganai/Hlanganani?

A: The premier expo has in the past 10 years been hosted seven times in Harare and three times in Bulawayo. We now use it as a tool to revive the tourism economy of the hosting city. That is the reason why we made a deliberate decision to take it back to Bulawayo. The tourism economy in Bulawayo had over the years taken a nose dive.

By taking it back to the City of Kings, its Government’s desire to contribute to the turnaround of the tourism industry and the economy at large. We don’t want Bulawayo to rely only on the ZITF and erratic workshops. We need many events in the city so that they can utilise the best accommodation and other tourism facilities in this region.

Sanganai is organised in the same mould as international tourism fairs like South Africa’s Indaba, Magical Kenya and Zambia Expo.

All these cited expos and many others across the globe are supported mainly by tourism players. But in Zimbabwe, only Bronte Hotel and some small players from as far as Hwange have always been supportive to the cause of the expo, the so-called giants have been lukewarm.

Bronte Hotel see value which unfortunately other players like RTG and African Sun don’t see. Surely, I don’t believe the hospitality industry is failing to provide accommodation and food to buyers that are coming to see their products.

In Kenya, industry players compete in a bidding process to host buyers because they know once they accommodate them they enhance their chances of being included in packages. How does the industry expect Government to do everything for them, including feeding the buyers?

The same would be said about other tour operators that are refusing to play ball. We have brought in buyers to see and familiarise with our products but again they expect us to pay for the delegates to sample those products. What a shame!

Q: How does the public benefit from an event like Sanganai?

A: The hosting community should not look at the expo in the same way as the carnival. Sanganai’s thrust remains to revive the economy in this case of Bulawayo.

When we now talk about community benefits, we must not look at spillovers but real and meaningful benefits. When the Bulawayo economy is revived and rejuvenated, people there will get employment. Once people get employment they will get income. So the benefits are real and somewhat long term.

Q: So in short, Sanganai outweighs the carnival in terms of economic impact?

A: Both are tourism events that have an impact on the tourism economy but, of course, on a different level. The carnival impacts on the economy, which Sanganai does but it goes further to impact on socio-cultural aspects of the society. The carnival has numerous economic derivatives but is organised with one big goal, which is to make the people of Zimbabwe happy — Gross National Happiness.

The economic benefits are realised almost immediately, for example people who come with their families use money on transport, food and different commodities on sale. Conversely, Sanganai has a huge impact on the economy involving hundreds of millions in dollars. However, this is not realised during the event.

Deals are made between buyers and exhibitors, which will culminate in packages being made in markets for Zimbabwe. These are the same packages that will see a number of tourists visiting the country.

Q: What motivated the rebranding of the expo 10 years ago? Also why did you drop the “Tourism Night” gig that used to bring down the curtain on the fair?

A: It was the need to uplift Shanyai/Vhakachani from the domestic fair that it was. So we re-engineered and repackaged the Zimbabwe Travel Expo from its domestic thrust to an international showcase.

Shanyai/Vhakachani was more of a festival without any business transactions between exhibitors and local buyers. So we moved from consumerism to serious business following international trends, registering our fair on the UNWTO calendar.  Exhibitors are not coming to put up their structures for entertainment like what was happening during the Shanyai Expo.

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