GOVERNMENT needs to construct and set up convention facilities in order for Zimbabwe’s economy to benefit from the potential inherent in the tourism sector, the Zimbabwe Tourism Authority (ZTA) chief executive Karikoga Kaseke yesterday said.
Kaseke’s remarks came as Zimbabwe will, for the first time, host the Jehovah’s Witnesses (JWs) International Convention in Harare next week, which is expected to attract over 3 400 delegates from all over the world.
Over 2 000 delegates, some of whom have started trickling into the country, were from the United States of America, while the remainder were from Germany, Brazil, some European and other African countries.
However, owing to the lack of such facilities, Kaseke said JWs could only invite a few hundred individuals from regional countries such as South Africa as Zimbabwe does not have the capacity to host the well over 50 000 Witnesses from that country.
Addressing a media briefing in the capital, Kaseke said it was incumbent upon government to help the country reach at least second position behind South Africa in terms of convention centres.
“As long as we don’t have a single convention facility in this country, that [lack of convention infrastructure] will not position us in a manner that will give us an edge over other countries. Convention centres are normally put up by government or local authorities not private operators,” Kaseke said.
He said the ZTA had already submitted papers to Treasury highlighting the significance of constructing the proposed facilities.
He said Meetings, Incentives, Conferences and Exhibitions (MICE) tourism rakes in three times more receipts than leisure tourism with knock on effects on local hotels in terms of revenue generation.
MICE business has huge potential to sustain the country’s economy through revenue generation, employment creation while increasing destination awareness.
ZTA last year, established the National Convention Bureau to attract more MICE tourism.
“We were propelled to set up this division after we noticed a significant increase in tourist arrivals into the country for the specific purpose of business travel. We also noticed a significant increase in domestic travel within the country for such events,” Kasekes aid.
According to the World Travel Monitor, global travel was showing positive trends and business travel in particular registered 6% growth in 2013.
Kaseke said organisers of the JW’s convention said they had block booked 16 hotels in the capital Harare and 37 lodges to accommodate the international delegates from all over the world.
At least 80 buses will also be used to ferry the delegates to and from the airport as well as excursions across nine different game parks.
Zimbabwe is the only African country to host the JWs International convention this year, whose theme will beKeep Seeking First God’s Kingdom! Other countries wereAustralia, Ecuador, England, Germany, Greece, Mexico and South Korea.
The country wants to attract more conferences and convention riding on the success of co-hosting the United Nations World Tourism Organisation general Assembly with Zambia last year.
The Tourism and Hospitality Industry ministry recently said the sector has the potential to hit the $5 billion revenue mark by 2020 from the current $1 billion.