Rainbow Towers Hotel was a hive of activity as exhibitors and buyers converged for the eighth edition Hlanganani/Sanganai Expo last week — in a scene reminiscent of the pre-2000 period before the economy imploded.
During the expo airlines, travel agencies, embassies, government agencies, tourism boards, hotels and safari operators displayed their banners, pamphlets and brochures to the public. Beaming lights, reverberating sounds, electronic presentations, posters and signage were all the rage as exhibitors attempted to attract participants’s attention by appealing to their senses of sight, hearing, touch and taste.
One of the major highlights at Sanganai/Hlanganai was the culinary expo, presenting more than 30 chefs from the Democratic Republic of Congo, Botswana, Ethiopia and Zimbabwe showcasing their gourmet skills.
Chefs shared their cooking techniques, recipes and ideas with those who have a passion for the culinary art.
The Ministerial Round Table, hosting Tourism ministers from Mozambique, Zambia, South Africa and Zimbabwe discussed how African tourism can increase its market share was also a major event.
As this year’s expo was bigger than last year’s the exhibiting space was too small and the venue could not sufficiently accommodate exhibitors, with Zimbabwe Tourism Authority (ZTA) indicating that the expo would spread to Bulawayo next year.
About 128 companies participated at this year’s edition of Sanganai/Hlanganani 2015, representing a 10% growth in the corporate involvement compared to last year.
The growth was inspired by a 17% growth in foreign company participation to 23 entities. Last year, there was a 10% growth in foreign corporate participation.
However, some exhibitors felt this year’s expo was more practical for business-to-business exchange but the public were left in the cold as they were given just a day to tour the exhibition stands.
One of the exhibitors, Fly Africa, felt local tourists deserved a longer opportunity to get to know their domestic destinations by interacting with exhibiting safaris, airlines and hotels.
“The way they designed this year’s edition is different from last year. We feel we needed more time to interact with customers .We had two days for business exchange and the public was not allowed,” said Fly Africa reservations manager George Stewart.
“It was practical for business to business exchange. The public did not get to interact with airlines. An opportunity should be given to the public to meet exhibitors; no one can finish touring stands in just one day or half a day. The last edition ran for seven days, this one for three days.”
At the Indian embassy stand, an impressive marriage king booth with monuments portraying diversity attracted the public as people jostled for photo shoots at the exquisite exhibition. The booth remains the event’s favourite and was crowned the best international exhibiting stand both this year and in 2014.
Acting Indian ambassador Rakshapaul Singh Malhotra said Indian participation at the expo was a sign of his country’s solidarity with Zimbabwe, as well as showcasing cultural diversity.
“Last year, our stand won the best international stand. We are encouraged by the number of people we attract to our stand. This year, our stand has improved. This is a proper platform for us to participate. Going into the future more international countries should come to promote tourism. If they can bring more international participants that means more tourists to Zimbabwe,” he said.
Zambia Tourism Board public relations and media manager Caristo Chitamfya said the expo was a fundamental platform to sell Zambia to the outside world.
“For us as a neighbouring country its useful because we know that a number of visitors come to Zambia via Zimbabwe,” he said.
“Zimbabwe is our source market. We met buyers who want to come to Zambia. Hlanganani was a chance to cultivate deeper relationships for us with buyers. We are also here to explore Zimbabwe .We want Africans to explore their own continent. If you look at the way our stand was arranged, we had themes to advertise Lusaka for Zimbabweans to have a weekend there. We also advertise our Zambia tourism expo (Zatex) as well as the Livingstone International Cultural Arts Festival. This year has more buyers than exhibitors.”
Zimbabwe Tourism Authority (ZTA) said judging from the comments of the exhibitors, buyers and the general public Sanganai/Hlanganani was successful, although there was still room for improvement.
After the expo, the ZTA said a snap survey carried out by all external exhibitors revealed that they were happy with the quality of buyers and business conducted and were keen to return to Sanganai 2016.
“Of interest to foreign exhibitors was the presence of many buyers from Africa which remains the largest source market for almost all destinations in Africa.
“All our planned exhibition space was taken leaving out several more companies requesting for the smallest possible space available only to be at Sanganai/Hlanganani 2015. We wish we could expand the venue which has now become too small for Sanganai,” ZTA said.