THE Zimbabwe Tourism Authority (ZTA) will from Thursday to Saturday hold the 11th edition of the Sanganai/Hlanganani World Tourism Expo at the Zimbabwe International Exhibition Centre in Bulawayo.
NewsDay (ND) business reporter, Mthandazo Nyoni interviewed ZTA chief executive officer, Karikoga Kaseke (KK) on the state of their preparedness. Below are excerpts from the interview:
ND: How far are you in terms of preparations for the 2018 Sanganai/Hlanganani World Tourism Expo?
KK: I think we are ready to roll. All preparations have been taken care of.
We are not having any outstanding issues with Sanganai.
We are happy that our buyers have already started arriving and some are still arriving.
So we are very much ready and we are ready to roll.
ND: How many international buyers are you expecting this year?
KK: We are expecting not less than 240 international buyers and 15 international media houses.
So that is what we are expecting.
ND: Which countries are these buyers coming from?
KK: They are coming from all over the globe. From all our markets.
Our markets are demarcated into three — Africa and Middle East, these are providing the most of our buyers about 115 buyers are coming from Africa and Middle East.
Europe and America are providing 65 buyers, and the rest are coming from Asia, that is China-Asian Pacific.
ND: How many tourism operators from Bulawayo have confirmed participation at this year’s expo?
KK: Not specifically, but I think the number of tourism operators that have already confirmed stands and already booked for Sanganai this year is very interesting.
The number is greatly higher than last year and I think that is what is important; that tourism operators from Bulawayo are very supportive of Sanganai and we are very happy.
ND: What is your assessment of the tourism performance in the first half of the year?
KK: We assess by region because all don’t perform the same.
The highest performing region in terms of tourism in the first half of the year is Victoria Falls followed, of course, by Harare.
Harare last year performed better than Victoria Falls in terms of tourism performance, but this year, Victoria Falls is definitely doing a lot of good work for us and it’s quite interesting to see that hotels in Victoria Falls, as I am talking to you now, are full and we are having problems with accommodating all our tourists in Victoria Falls and that is very encouraging.
Ever since the new dispensation, Victoria Falls has been doing extremely well followed by Harare. Number three, I cannot tell you now, but I know Harare is second in terms of performance.
Overall, the tourism performance for the first-half of this year was much higher and better than that of last year.
ND: On average, where would you put it?
KK: I think 20% or 25% more than first half of last year.
ND: What major challenges did the sector face in the period under review?
KK: The challenges we have been facing are still with us.
There are challenges that pertain to the product.
The product has not yet been renewed or mordernised because of the challenges coming from the old era or First Republic.
We are now in the Second Republic and we are very hopeful that things are going to change.
In terms of the major challenge, but which is not very negative, is the shortage of accommodation insome parts of our country, especially in Victoria Falls.
We had wished one would not help wishing that Victoria Falls has doubled its current room capacity.
So it’s a positive challenge which we must work on.
Apart from that, issues which we used to cry about last year in the old era, issues with image, these are no longer issues that we want to talk about because they are not being raised anymore.
The image of the country has improved very drastically and we are very happy with the image of the country as is seen by the market at the moment.
ND: What are your expectations as ZTA from the new government led by President Emmerson Mnangagwa?
KK: When the President took over last year, he had already indicated to us and to the nation that this country should be opened up for business and has opened the country for business.
It’s not like a President who was just elected last week and we are expecting a lot of things that are different from what he has been doing.
I think he has done very well from the time he took over.
We are expecting him to continue.
This is an opportunity that has been given to him to continue with his fantastic programmes that he was running and once these programmes continue, like he has promised us that he is for real change and, indeed, he is for real change.