Zim’s tourism is on the rise. Image supplied

Sanganai – Hlanganani tourism expo signals hope for Zimbabwe’s tourism

The flagship trade forum for Zimbabwean tourism held last week has highlighted the determination of the industry to tackle the effects of the present pandemic, build traveller confidence while creating a resilient future for all those working in travel and hospitality.


Zim’s tourism is on the rise. Image supplied

Normally the annual gathering in Bulawayo, the country’s second largest city, attracts hundreds of delegates from around the world to the Zimbabwe International Exhibition trade fair grounds.

While the spread of COVID-19 has led to cancelled travel trade events globally, the Zimbabwe Tourism Authority (ZTA) kept the profile of the exciting southern African country by holding a virtual expo.

As a result, the 13th edition of the event saw 2,500 meetings between virtual exhibitors and travel trade stakeholders from around the globe, according to the ZTA.

In addition to the trade discussions, positive insights related to tourism recovery in the country and wider region were shared by national, regional and international travel trade experts through 12 webinars at this year’s Sanganai – Hlanganani (meaning to meet or come together in the Shona and Ndebele languages).

Zimbabwe’s tourism

In a discussion on the readiness of Zimbabwean tourism to welcome back visitors during and after the pandemic, recognition was given to the work of the public and private sectors to follow health and safety requirements in relation to COVID-19.

Givemore Chidzidzi, acting ZTA CEO, emphasised the country’s focus using international best practice to ensure that protocols for health, safety and physical distancing requirements were promoted.

He noted that a unified approach was critical saying, “It only takes one player to lax and everyone is in trouble.”

This sentiment was reinforced by Aaron Chingombe, Tourismand Quality Assurance Manager at Zimbabwe Parks & Wildlife Management Authority.

He explained, “We have made provisions in line with World Health Organisation guidelines and regulations from our own government.”

Safety a primary concern

Ensuring a safe visitor experience was highlighted by international travel trade figures commenting on future business patterns.

“We must give visitors reassurance the proper safety measures will be taken if you go to Zimbabwe,” commented Patrick Hanratty, owner of Mmilo Tours (South Africa).

Casper Venter, Managing Director of Venter Tours (Germany) believed this was especially applicable to the over 55s travellers who make up a significant proportion of Zimbabwe’s tourism market.

Operational and staff preparedness has therefore become a critical focus for the industry in Zimbabwe, with Faith Mwales, Sales Manager at the iconic Victoria Falls Hotel, reporting, “We have been working behind the scenes training our staff and putting up COVID safety measures.”

This also extends to reviewing seating plans and menu options in socially distanced restaurant settings to ensure the finest five-start guest experience is still offered.

Socially distanced, but five-star

“People are looking more for ‘bubble’ type travel like a house boat on Lake Kariba or game lodges where families can stay together,” says Marc Reading, founder of Talking Stick Global (UK), who expects more group travel after April 2021.

Shelley Cox, Director of Sales/Marketing at Africa Conservation Travel, believes her homeland is ideal for such vacations.

“There are many homesteads and similar exclusive properties across Zimbabwe.”

Such large, self-catering, multi-bedroom properties have already proved popular with domestic tourists this year who have taken advantage of significant discounts to arrange family vacations within the country.

Tourist arrivals in Zimbabwe reached 2.29 million in 2019 and the nation received a total of US$1.25 billion in tourism receipts, with foreign receipts contributing US$868 million, according to last year’s Budget and Economic Review Report released by Treasury.

Despite lockdown measures halting tourism, Moreblessings Thshuma, Director at the Bulawayo Publicity Association, insists the industry has remained resilient.

“Even though lodges and hotels shut, owners were improving their establishments. I assure you Zimbabwe during lockdown were preparing for the future.”

Onwards and upwards for Zimbabwe tourism

Tersh Makamanzi, Group Sales & Business Development Manager of Cresta Hotels, reported that The Jameson Hotel, a Harare landmark opened in 1959, is being refurbished and will re-open in 2021.

Mrs Makamanzi notes that occupancy rates have improved in their Harare business hotels more than the accommodation in Victoria Falls where leisure tourism numbers are recovering much slower.

In response to this challenge at the world-famous destination, Zimbabwe and the International Finance Corporation (IFC), a member of the World Bank Group, this month launched the Victoria Falls Tourism Recovery Plan with a roadmap to sustainably scale up the growth potential of the area, through data collection; marketing and skills development; infrastructure improvements; and viable project investments.

Muziwakhe Nhlamba, Estate Manager at Hillside Dams Conservancy, is also seeing brighter prospects for the nature and leisure attraction some 8km from the centre of Bulawayo.

“We are opening a pop up restaurant with a pizza oven in December and plan more recreational activities like abseiling in the long term.”

The attraction aims to create more exciting attractions for both local families and international visitors.

Sanganai – Hlanganani demonstrated the nation’s pragmatic, cautious but optimistic approach to tourism.

A “together we are stronger” ethos was clearly demonstrated in collaborative, public-private efforts on present and future challenges and a wider cross-border co-operation such as the Kavango-Zambezi Transfrontier Conservation Area that spans five countries.

Above all, as Moreblessings Tshuma observes, “The people of Zimbabwe are resilient. People have a positive mentality. The future is bright for us.”