The Sunday Mail
Tendai Rupapa in BULAWAYO
ZIMBABWE’s tourism sector is on the path to recovery following a two-year Covid-19-induced slump as confidence from source markets in destination Zimbabwe continues to grow, Tourism and Hospitality Industry patron First Lady Dr Auxillia Mnangagwa has said.
She said she felt greatly honoured to officiate at the 2022 15th edition of Sanganai/Hlanganani World Tourism Expo.
What was more significant, she added, was that it was the first physical edition to be held in Bulawayo post Covid-19.
Six African countries – South Africa, Rwanda, Mozambique, Zambia, Botswana and Malawi – were exhibiting at the expo.
It ran under the theme “Thinking Investment-Explore Zimbabwe Tourism Opportunities.”
Dr Mnangagwa toured stands where exhibitors showcased a variety of Africa’s best tourism products and attracted international visitors and media from across the world.
The First Lady, who intends to go regional through establishing a cultural exchange programme complete with festivals, was happy to learn and appreciate different cultures and attires presented by countries that were exhibiting.
During the tour, she was accompanied by Environment, Climate, Tourism and Hospitality Industry Minister Mangaliso Ndlovu and his DRC counterpart Modero Nsimba Matondo.
Officially opening the expo and presenting awards, the First Lady said: “The event also comes at a time when global tourism is showing signs of resurgence. This follows the lifting of travel restrictions and the resumption of international travel. In our case as Zimbabwe, we are on course to tourism recovery following a two-year Covid-19-induced slump. This is largely attributed to growing confidence in destination Zimbabwe by the source markets. The more than 100 international buyers and media personnel who are gracing Sanganai/Hlanganani this year bear testimony to that. This could, among other factors, be attributed to the Second Republic’s Engagement and Re-engagement Policy.”
As the country implements the National Tourism Recovery and Growth Strategy, authorities are conscious of the potential contribution of domestic tourism to tourism development in Zimbabwe.
“For the benefit of our guests, the National Tourism Recovery and Growth Strategy was crafted by the Government, working together with the tourism players and stakeholders in efforts to recover lost business. The strategy was launched by the President, His Excellency, Cde E.D Mnangagwa, in 2020.
“This is why from the peak of Covid-19 pandemic the Ministry of Environment, Climate, Tourism and Hospitality Industry, through the Zimbabwe Tourism Authority, have embarked on the promotion of domestic tourism through the Zimbho campaign,” she said.
The campaign, she said, has seen more people travelling within the country, leading to a general increase in average hotel occupancies and entry into national parks.
“Meanwhile, the launch of both the Visit Zimbabwe campaign and the Meet-in-Zim campaign, which are both targeted at attracting international travel and business tourism to Zimbabwe, is paying dividends. Whilst I acknowledge more needs to be done, I am encouraged by the support that Government is giving to the tourism sector. Just a week ago, the tourism sector was accorded a US$7,5 million revolving fund towards the development and upgrading of tourism facilities. The fund, which prioritises small to medium-size operators, both new and existing, will go a long way in product enhancement thereby contributing to destination competitiveness,” she said.
This effort, Dr Mnangagwa said, was being complimented by the growing interest by international tourism brands, and was expected to contribute towards product development and diversification.
“As the First Lady of the Republic of Zimbabwe and patron of the tourism sector, I have also contributed to the diversification of the tourism product through the introduction of gastronomy tourism, in the form of the promotion of traditional foods and cuisines in the country some two years back.
“Further, the Government has also prioritised investment towards market presence. As such, Zimbabwe will finalise deployment of tourism attachés to key markets including the USA, China, UK, Germany, India, Japan and South Korea during the year 2023. Priority will also be given towards increased market presence through the deployment of our marketing efforts across the various digital marketing platforms, as ICTs are key in promoting and projecting that country’s image and brand on the global marketplace,” she added.
“Honourable ministers, distinguished guests, let me take this opportunity to commend the World Bank, through the International Finance Corporation, for supporting us under the Zimbabwe destination management programme. The support, which aims to reposition Victoria Falls as a regional tourism hub, is already paying off as more and more airlines are showing interest in destination Zimbabwe.
“Further on the infrastructure front, the Government is speeding up border upgrading and expansion, as well as accelerating roads and airports development programmes.
Development and completion of key infrastructure such as the RGM International Airport, Harare-Masvingo-Beitbridge highway and the Beitbridge Border Post upgrading and modernisation are expected to facilitate tourists travel to destination Zimbabwe.
“I would like to officially welcome our esteemed buyers and exhibitors, potential investors and financial institutions, media houses and all those present today, to Zimbabwe. Zimbabwe is a world-class destination of choice. It boasts of wonderful people and culture, rich history and heritage, the majestic Victoria Falls, Great Zimbabwe, the grand medieval palace, pristine nature and wildlife, the mystic of the Eastern Highlands and the mythical Lake Kariba and the mighty Zambezi River. These are the Seven Wonders of our World. They are at your disposal to enjoy.”
Amai Mnangagwa paid tribute to local people who kept tourism on its feet by travelling locally.
“Through the Zimbho campaign, we experienced an increase in domestic tourism and this sustained the sector during the period when international travel was at a standstill.
“On this optimistic note, let me express my deep appreciation to the ZTA for organising a wonderful and successful 2022 Sanganai/Hlanganani World Travel Expo. Let me also thank the City of Bulawayo and ZITF company for hosting the event. To all the sponsors, exhibitors, buyers and media, thank you all for partaking in the 2022 edition of Sanganai/Hlanganani. With these remarks, I hereby declare Sanganai/Hlanganani World Tourism Expo officially opened,” she said.
Environment, Climate, Tourism and Hospitality Industry Minister Mangaliso Ndlovu said he celebrated the return of the Sanganai/Hlanganani World Tourism Expo after a long time due to the Covid-19 restrictions.
“The expo roars back to life once again carrying with it 270 exhibitors, more than 100 buyers and 10 international media houses. Covid-19 had placed a plug on tourism activities globally through travel and social restrictions, of which this marks the backbone of tourism and hospitality industry. To that end, distinguished friends, I would like to applaud all the players locally and internationally who remained steadfast in making sure that the industry remains afloat and today we celebrate the 15th edition of the expo because of those sector players who did not give up.
“Among those who did not give up on the sector is the esteemed Guest of Honour of this event, our mother, the First Lady. Her support for the industry remained unwavering even through the most difficult times she has remained resolute. We have seen her promoting gastronomy tourism, which kept the industry alive during the Covid-19 restrictions period. The First Lady has also fought hard to push for policies that were inclusive and sustainable in terms of mainstreaming formerly disadvantaged sections of our society especially women, youth and physically disadvantaged in the tourism sector. This approach is in sync with his Excellency President E.D Mnangagwa’s mantra of leaving no one and no place behind in the country’s development trajectory,” he said.
While touring the exhibition stands, Amai Mnangagwa mixed and mingled with local and international exhibitors.
In Hall Three, she toured the Zimbabwe Tourism Authority (ZTA) stand, where she commended the board, which has women forming part of the members, and expressed her support for women empowerment.
From there, they went to Zimparks, Africa Sun Limited, Airports Company of Zimbabwe (ACZ), South African Tourism, Villa Gianni Boutique hotel, Zambia Tourism Agency (ZTA) and Visit Rwanda stand.
In Hall Four, they toured the Matabeleland South Youth in Tourism stand, Women in Tourism and Single Parent Movement stands.
At the South African tourism stand, Amai Mnangagwa spoke to Ms Suzan Ramodike and said: “Thank you very much for supporting our beautiful country Zimbabwe and also standing with us. We are one, we are all Africans. Thank you very much for the relationship that we have,” she said.
At the Zambian tourism stand, she spoke to Mrs Jocelyn Namula Mutinta, who said they worked closely with Zimbabwe.
“We work with our counterparts from the Zimbabwean side. We do realise we share most of the borders like the Victoria Falls. We believe that when the tourists come to visit, they realise that they will be visiting more than one destination in one air ticket, so we would like to promote that. We have nothing to lose but to gain as we pull each other up. We need to promote these two countries as one destination,” she said.
The First Lady weighed in, saying: “We are happy you have come to Zimbabwe and got to know what Zimbabwe has apart from Victoria Falls.”
At the Rwanda stand, Dr Mnangagwa spoke to Mr Jean Paul Baruhura.
“There is a lot that Rwanda is doing and I feel we can do the same here so that we promote our women and youths,” she said, whereupon Mr Baruhura described Zimbabwe as an amazing country.
Women in Tourism and Single Parent Movement thanked the First Lady for income-generating projects she is spearheading in the country.
They said their projects were inspired by her.
Zambia Tourism Agency won the Best International Exhibitors award, while African Sun Limited walked tall with the Best Zimbabwe Stand award.
Best Overall Atand and Best Hotel Stand also went to African Sun Limited.
Best Public Institution Stand was won by the Airports Company of Zimbabwe, while the Best Association winner was the City of Bulawayo.
Best Training Institute Stand was scooped by Chinhoyi University of Technology, Best Tour Operator Stand went to Best of Zimbabwe, Best Airline Stand was lifted by Ethiopian Airlines, while the Best Provincial Stand was won by Matabeleland North.
Sanganai/Hlanganani is the country’s major destination-marketing initiative.