THE Zimbabwe International Trade Fair (ZITF) has called an urgent stakeholders conference in Bulawayo today as it emerged that exhibitors who had registered were pulling out in large numbers citing high participation costs.
The fair is struggling to lure local and international exhibitors to the international trade showcase as very few have shown an interest.
Industry and Commerce minister Welshman Ncube and Regional Integration and International Trade minister Priscilla Misihairabwi are expected to address the emergency meeting.
The ZITF has also invited service providers to the meeting to iron out outstanding issues and address concerns raised by exhibitors forcing many to cancel their bookings.
A notice sent out by the ZITF said stakeholders invited to the meeting include accommodation providers, caterers, the police, immigration officials and those providing dÃ©cor services for the stands.
â€œAll ZITF stakeholders are welcome including accommodation and catering services, stand design and dÃ©cor services, hire services, freight forwarders, cleaning agencies, plant dÃ©cor services, police security companies, immigration and Zimra,â€ reads the notice sent out by ZITF. Â
A source at ZITF said the meeting was called to persuade service providers to reduce their charges to save theÂ trade showcase, which has been facing viability problems because of the prevailing economic situation.
â€œThe majority of exhibitors are cancelling their bookings and are citing high costs for accommodation that is charged by hotels,â€ one of the sources said. â€œThe struggling companies are also being charged a fortune by dÃ©cor service providers and by freight companies. As result, the ZITF has called all stakeholders so that the issues can be addressed and save this yearâ€™s trade fair.â€
Hotels in Bulawayo normally raise their accommodation rates during the trade fair period and this week a leading hotel in the city had advertised that a room would be going for US$130 a night but the rate has since been reduced to US$75 after the ZITF engaged the hotels over the high rates.
This yearâ€™s four-day edition of the ZITF kicks-off on April 28 and will be held under the theme Golden Platform for Dynamic Take-off.
Prime Minister Morgan Tsvangirai is expected to officially open this yearâ€™s fair even though ZITF officials say the guest of honour has not yet been confirmed by the government.
The ZITF two weeks ago reduced rates drastically in a bid to attract more exhibitors.
External sites per square metre were reduced from US$25 to US$15 while hall space is now US$25 from US$40 a square metre.
A pre-constructed nine square metre space is now being offered for US$362, down from US$587.
Last year, only seven countries, mainly from the Far East, participated at the ZITF while the rest of the exhibitors were government enterprises and parastatals.
A number of countries that had confirmed participation withdrew at the last minute.
At its peak, the ZITF attracted dozens of international exhibitors and brought together multi-sectoral interests across the whole business sectors, mining, hospitality and tourism, among others.
BY LOUGHTY DUBE