HARARE, Zimbabwe – Cabinet has given the nod for government to set up a National Conventions Bureau (NCB) as part of sustained efforts to increase tourist arrivals into the country, Tourism and Hospitality Industry minister, Walter Mzembi has said.
According to the Zimbabwe Tourism Authority, the country recorded a 12% increase in tourist arrivals in the first half of 2013, standing at 859 995 as compared to 767 393 during the same period last year.
The ever-increasing regional trade and commerce contributed immensely to this growth in arrivals, through the activities of business tourists, cross border traders and transiting tourists, mostly drawn from the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), Tanzania, Malawi, Mozambique and Zambia.
Mzembi told delegates at the Sanganai/Hlanganani World Travel and Tourism Africa Fair 2013 hosted in Harare last week that government had endorsed the concept.
“We have received support from cabinet to immediately look at setting up the National Conventions Bureau, which will also serve as a cost-cutting platform,” said Mzembi. “It will also enable us to secure rights to international exhibitions and events.”
An NCB promotes the growth and marketing of a destination, concentrating on convention sales, tourism marketing, as well as services.
Government is paying increased attention to Meetings Incentives Conferences and Exhibitions (Mice) tourism.
“In the next fortnight, I should come back with a structure to establish Mice business in the country,” said Mzembi, adding that this would be done within the context of an implementation matrix.
Mzembi said as part of government’s strategy to promote the concept, he would like to see the envisaged NCB harnessing strategic properties or assets and collapsing them for use as conferencing facilities.
He suggested the use of the Harare International Conference Centre (HICC) being managed by the Rainbow Tourism Group, the Hilton complex in Eastlea and the ZCC Mutendi Complex located along the Masvingo-Mutare road, which has a seating capacity of 18 000.
“We will do an audit and collapse all these facilities,” he said.
An NCB would also offer financial and non-financial incentives to the organisers of the events.
Executive manager of the South African Convention Bureau, Amanda Kotze-Nhlapo said intellectual engagement in setting up that country’s bureau was an imperative.
“We realised that we needed to align ourselves with the economic objectives of government. But the perception of destination is of prime importance for the Mice industry,” she told delegates.
She added that such initiatives would be crucial for the transformation of the country’s knowledge economy and employment creation.
One participant raised concern over the impact of travel warnings issued by traditional Western markets on the country, saying things had greatly changed ever since the 1990s.
This year’s Sanganai/Hlanganani show was attended by 1 234 local and 208 foreign exhibitors, and 120 international buyers.
Senior Minister of State in the President’s Office, Simon Khaya-Moyo told delegates that the introduction of tourism industry incentives and rebates would be expedited to enhance the performance of the sector.
“Tourism is highly dependent on other enablers hence government will work on recapitalising all sectors of the economy that impact on tourism to unlock value out of the sector,” said Khaya-Moyo.