By Prosper Ndlovu Bulawayo Bureau
Several companies were still trickling to Bulawayo yesterday for the on-going 11th edition of the Sanganai/Hlanganani World Tourism Expo, which has received overwhelming response from local exhibitors and international buyers.
The City of Kings is hosting one of Africa’s prime tourism and travel showcases, which has attracted 325 companies and 150 buyers, according to organisers, the Zimbabwe Tourism Authority (ZTA).
There are 23 countries participating at this year’s exhibition, housing more than 77 companies in sharing stands, which is the highest recorded since the re-branding of the expo.
“This year has seen an overwhelming response from quality exhibitors with many companies still trickling in last minute. We have had to extend the exhibition space to allow for interested companies to showcase at this premier event,” ZTA chief executive officer, Mr Karikoga Kaseke, told journalists during a briefing.
He said 325 companies had taken up stands at the Zimbabwe International Exhibition Centre as of yesterday.
These were drawn from tourism industry, financial services sector, tertiary institutions, local authorities and suppliers.
“The exhibition space taken up now is at 7,548 square metres, which is a positive change in uptake from 2016 with 6,237 square metres. This increase of over 1,000 square metres in space uptake shows an interest directed towards the tourism sector,” he said.
Mr Kaseke said the tourism sector also realised an increase of 4,6 percent in exhibiting companies from last year, which demonstrates growth.
He said much growth was evident in the increase of foreign participants. To date 150 buyers have arrived in the country and some are conducting pre-tours while other groups will undertake post Sanganai tours.
According to ZTA, this year’s edition seeks to enhance business to business exchange through speed networking. The first networking session began yesterday among local accommodation providers, tour operators, local authorities and suppliers.
“We will once again have speed networking sessions between local operators and international buyers having considered the fruitful engagements that came out from the first session in 2017,” said Dr Kaseke.
This year’s edition began with commemorations of the life of the late icon, founding nationalist and Vice President of Zimbabwe, Joshua Nkomo.
A march in honour of the late national hero was conducted starting from the Blue Lagoon in Thorngrove, via Stanley Square in Makokoba to the JM Nkomo statue in the city centre ending at the city hall. Guest of honour Vice President Dr Constantino Chiwenga will officially open the expo today.