‘Fantastic’ Zim attractions charm global tourism players Buyers network at the 15th Edition of Sanganai/Hlanganani Expo in Bulawayo yesterday

Nqobile Bhebhe Bulawayo Bureau

GLOBAL tourism players who are in the country for the 15th edition of the Sanganai/Hlanganani World Tourism Expo underway in Bulawayo, have expressed deep appreciation of the country’s “fantastic” resort product offerings, which they have vowed to aggressively market to their clients.

Boasting diverse natural heritage attractions, vast wildlife species including the Big 5, rich cultural and historic sites, art and craft, unique climate and food plus a hospitable population, Zimbabwe stands tall among favourable global destinations to visit, but needs more aggressive marketing to reap higher earnings from the sector.

The international tourism buyers are part of the exhibitors to the oversubscribed three-day expo, which stretches up to Saturday under the theme: “Thinking Investment — Explore Zimbabwe Tourism Opportunities”.

This year’s edition has already surpassed its initial target of 250 exhibitors with organisers indicating more than 270 participants in attendance.

During interactions with The Chronicle at the expo, which kicked off in Bulawayo yesterday, various international buyers said they were excited by the several untapped international competitive offerings that, when properly marketed, can propel the sector to dizzy heights.

In the run up to the expo, several international buyers from across the world had toured some of the country’s resort destinations that include Nyanga and Victoria Falls as part of the pre-Sanganai/Hlanganani World Tourism Expo activities.

Nigerian travel and tour agent, Ms Julie Tongrit, said from resort attractions she has visited, her perspective about Destination Zimbabwe has been enhanced as she was in a better position to sell the country to her clients.

“Zimbabwe is fantastic and Victoria Falls is out of this world. I have never really known Zimbabwe to be this rich when it comes to tourism,” she noted.

“Being a first-timer in Zimbabwe, it’s really fascinating. I now have something concrete to sell to my clients. I was not able to sell Zimbabwe because I was not sure what was available.

“I have visited Victoria Falls and Hwange National Park and many lodges and I now have a new product to sell completely different from what I normally sell.”

United Kingdom-based independent travel agent, Ms Maria Hedley, of Maria’s Global Gateways said there is a huge appetite for Zimbabwe’s tourism products in the UK.

She said armed with knowledge gained from her brief stay so far, she can authoritatively market the products to her vast clients.

“I work as a travel agent and I heard about Sanganai when I was in London. My first impression has been brilliant and from interactions during the speed networking, I have learnt much about Zimbabwe tourism and am able to now tell my clients about the country from an informed position.

“I will refer my customers to Zimbabwe,” said Ms Hedley.

A buyer from the United Arab Emirates (UAE), Mr Zaim Muhammad, who is a managing partner at Red Berry Travel and Tours said there is immense potential for the sector to compete favourably globally.

“Zimbabwe is a great destination and has a lot of potential. From what I have seen in Bulawayo, Matopo National Park and Victoria Falls I will be in a better position to offer an attractive package to UAE clients and Pakistan,” he said. In May, the Zimbabwe Tourism Authority exhibited at the Arabian Travel Market (ATM), a crucial travel and tourism event to unlock business potential within the Middle East for inbound and outbound tourism professionals.

A participant from the United States, Mr Manoj Shresthan described the country’s tourism sector as growing marvel and said a huge section of American travellers are keen to know what Zimbabwe offers.

“Zimbabwe is a growing destination in America and after my visit here I will aggressively sell Victoria Falls. But Zimbabwe has more to offer than Victoria Falls,” he said.

“This is a learning curve for me and am looking for collaborations with companies here in order to promote Zimbabwe.

“I believe in storytelling, when I get back to America, I will definitely spread a good message from what I saw to my clients.”

As Zimbabwe drives at marketing itself as a world-class tourism destination, the Sanganai/Hlanganani Expo, which returns to its physical format this year after a two-year disruption due to Covid-19, is expected to drive impetus in rejuvenating the sector and enhancing momentum towards attaining a $5 billion milestone by 2025.

The premier tourism expo provides a unique platform for partnerships and brings together sector players under the same roof with buyers, agents and potential travellers.

The exhibition comes at a time when tourism is on a growth trajectory following the relaxation of Covid-19-induced travel restrictions and lockdowns.

Official statistics indicate that the country recorded 352 719 tourist arrivals in the first-half of the year, up 115 percent from 164 062 tourist arrivals received during the same period last year with a majority of the visitors coming in from the USA and UK.

In 2020, the Government launched the National Tourism Recovery and Growth Strategy to re-start the sector, whose contribution to the national economy has been heavily crippled.

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