MADRID – Zimbabwe's exhibition stand ranked lowly compared to African and global counterparts at the just-ended 2018 International Tourism Fair (Fitur), with the Zimbabwe Tourism Authority (ZTA) citing poor funding towards preparations.
This year, Zimbabwe exhibited at the Fair — which attracts thousands of visitors across the globe — for the tenth time, among scores of countries from Africa and the world.
The week-long event, held in Madrid, Spain, provides a platform for countries to market and show case their tourist attractions, and crucially, to interact with tour operators.
Karikoga Kaseke, ZTA chief executive, told the Daily News in an interview in Madrid that Zimbabwe government needed to up its game and match competitors by channelling resources toward improving the country’s visibility at such strategic travel Fairs, and not “merely attend”.
“Are we marketing Zimbabwe or we are just maintaining our presence,” queried Kaseke, who was leading the ZTA delegation at Fitur.
“We need resources for us to put up a good show and compete with other countries,” he said, adding that they failed to refurbish Zimbabwe’s exhibition stand because they were not given enough resources.
At the Madrid Fair, Zimbabwe competed with South Africa, Mali, Botswana and Zambia — which also showcased the Victoria Falls, among many countries across the world.
And Zambia’s showcasing of the Victoria Falls justifies Kaseke’s argument why Zimbabwe ought to up it’s game in marketing it’s tourist destinations.
Zambia and Zimbabwe share the majestic Victoria Falls — a Unesco approved site and the world’s seventh natural wonder, which attracts hundreds of thousands of tourists to Africa annually — but the the latter has the advantage of a much better view.
To put up a good show at Fitur, Kaseke said, Zimbabwe required at least $200 000.
“We were given only $100 000 after we humbly requested $140 000, though $200 000 was ideal,” he said.
Some of the money, he said, had to go toward funding Tourism minister Prisca Mupfumira’ s activities, including funding her cocktail to host delegates in Spain.
“The money was not enough. We need resources,” Kaseke said, adding “we tried to lobby the Finance ministry but it was unsuccessful, probably because Finance minister Patrick Chinamasa was not around”.
He said Chinamasa had since been convinced that it was crucial for government to fund tourism — among the key sectors targeted at reviving Zimbabwe’s subdued economy, together with agriculture and mining.
“I even engaged Chinamasa’s deputy, Terrence Mukupe, who also understood our plight…but it’s probably other ministry officials who have not understood yet the importance of the tourism industry.”
“We would rather not be here (at the travel fairs) than come and show misery,” Kaseke said.
“It humiliates our country.”
While visitors flocked to other African countries’ stands, which served their native dishes and had traditional dancers entertaining, a few passed by Zimbabwe’s stand.
“We could attract all these visitors if we improved our visibility. But that requires resources,” Kaseke said.
To address the crisis, Kaseke said Mupfumira, who was also in Madrid engaging tour operators and the Spanish business community, will seek a meeting with Chinamasa.
“That has to be done ahead of the ITB Fair in Berlin, Germany, in March, which is an even bigger fair compared to Fitur,” he said.
“At ITB, exhibition stands of countries like South Africa and Botswana will be at least three times bigger,” Kaseke said.
In the 2018 budget, Kaseke said ZTA was allocated $1 million from an expected $11 million.
“At this rate, we are still a long way to go.”
“I know the Finance ministry is trying it’s best, but it’s best is not good enough,” Kaseke said.