The Sunday Mail
The A’sambeni Africa Tourism and Travel Expo running concurrently with the Zimbabwe International Trade Fair (ZITF) will angle the country as the best business tourism destination and boost growth of the tourism industry, an official has said.
ZTA chief executive Mr Karikoga Kaseke said the expo would enable the country to engage regional Meetings, Incentives, Conferences and Events (Mice) players and develop business tourism.
This year’s edition runs from April 22 to 26 at the Zimbabwe International Exhibition Centre (ZIEC).
According to organisers of the event, at least 10 countries will exhibit at the business expo (A’sambeni), with 20 hosted buyers having been invited from the Sadc region to come and sample the different Mice tourism-related exhibits.
The Mice Tourism educational workshops are aimed at educating and creating awareness to Zimbabwean corporate executives on the role played by tourism associations and non-governmental organisations in profiling Zimbabwe as a meetings and conferencing destination.
Conversely, concerns have been raised by pundits on the events’ ability to achieve intended objectives.
The pundits argue that the idea of hosting buyers was costly to the nation, which at the moment was battling a serious liquidity crunch.
However, in an interview with The Sunday Mail Business, Mr Kaseke describes the expos as a success.
He said, the event (A’sambeni), together with others like Sanganai/Hlanganani and the Harare International Carnival scheduled for May this year, have helped Zimbabwe regain its position on the tourism map.
Mr Kaseke, however, pointed out that benefits of the event and similar ones were not immediate but would be realised gradually.
Arrivals into the country had slumped over the years due to negative publicity of the destination by the West and its allies.
According to a 2013 Tourism Trends and Statistics Report, which was published by the ZTA, tourist arrivals in Zimbabwe rose by 2 percent last year from 1,7 million to 1,840 million.
“We are hoping the event will grow and after some time, say, up to five years, we will then begin to see results. Don’t think results will be seen this year. The event helps to attract visitors to this country.
“If you notice carefully, arrivals and hotel bookings have been gradually increasing in the last five years and it is because of a conscious decision that we have taken to use these events to market the destination,” he said.
Mr Kaseke added that the organisers of the 55th edition of the ZITF had decided to host a sizeable number of buyers for the A’sambeni Expo.
He said the country needed to reap more benefits from visitors hence the move to encourage the foreigners to spend directly from their pockets.
“When we go to carnivals in other countries, we are not paid; hence we will also not be paying anyone to come to our carnival. Countries coming for the event (carnival) will be meeting their own expenses that is, food, accommodation, flights and so on,” said the ZTA boss.
Organisers of this year’s edition of the ZITF opine that the annual event and its concurrent expos will likely attract more visitors compared to last year given the high interest shown by both international and local companies and organisations.
Among the countries that will be participating are Bangladesh, China, Egypt, India, Indonesia, Italy, Iran, Kenya, Malawi, Mozambique, Netherlands, Poland, South Africa, United States of America and Zambia.
According to ZITF statistics, the trade fair attracted 51 000 business visitors and 37 000 non-business visitors from across the world last year.