THIS yeara��s Sanganai/ Hlanganani-World Tourism Expo which started in Bulawayo on Thursday will no doubt steer and activate tourism in the multi-ethnic City of Kings and Queens which has a dozen of tourist attractions with rich history and remarkable diversity of culture.
Various events are lined up over the three days (September 5 to 8) of the 11th edition of the Expo under the theme a�?Revival of the Bulawayo Tourism Economya�? with the key attraction being the exhibition of tourism products and services by local and international exhibitors at the Zimbabwe International Exhibition Centre.
There is no doubt that the return of the Expo to one of the oldest and historically most important of Zimbabwea��s towns presents an opportunity for local tourism players in the city to harness the culture, tourism and economic development nexus.A� This is so because Bulawayo has a rich history and culture, an attribute that gives leverage to development and promotion of cultural and township tourism.
Despite its lucrative tourism package, Bulawayo also has much untapped tourism potential and the move by Zimbabwe Tourism Authority to honour the late hero, Dr Joshua Nkomoa��s Tourism Heritage trails is unquestionably a welcome development.
a�?At this yeara��s Sanganai/ Hlanganani we are going to provide narratives that will be used to develop and promote the late hero, Father Zimbabwe, Dr Joshua Nkomoa��s Tourism Heritage Trails.
a�?Tourism Heritage Trails entail the crafting of routes that tourists can undertake if they want to understand the history behind an iconic figure or any heritage.
a�?We are certain that this product will be a success and will not only profile the region where the late Vice-President hailed from but will take tourists across our great nation,a�? ZTA chief executive officer Karikoga Kaseke said.
Mr Kaseke said Sanganai/ Hlanganani was still in Bulawayo until ZTA was satisfied that the once vibrant tourism industry in the city of Kings and Queens had returned to its former glory.
The honour of Dr Nkomo is received with excitement bearing in mind that Bulawayo has other areas of cultural and historical significance such as Makokoba Township, a bastion of social movements dating back to the liberation era, and various other features of interest such as the a�?Hanging Treea�? on Joshua Nkomo Street; the Post Office Gardens; Exchange Bar and Restaurant; the Natural History Museum and the National Gallery in Bulawayo among other attractions.
One of the tourist attraction sites is the City Hall, once the main shelter for white and non-Ndebele Bulawayo settlers at the time the Ndebeles rose up against the colonial system.
Given its tourism scenery, Bulawayo can easily compare with cities such as Beijing, Barcelona and Paris, which receive an average of 32 million tourists annually.
Meanwhile, the city as a local authority has also to play an active role in promoting township tourism. Since Bulawayo has a formal twinning relationship with Durban in South Africa, one hopes that in future the two local authorities would consider doing a joint exhibition at the Expo.
Additionally, the city is also located within the vicinity of Hwange National Park, The Victoria Falls (one of the wonders of the world), Khami Ruins, The Matobo Hills (where Cecil John Rhodes and King Mzilikazi as well are buried) and Matobo National Park.
Given that Bulawayo is hosting various international buyers who are out to scout for new products and services in the countrya��s tourism industry, it is the best time that local tourism players should establish networks that will be the basis for long term value exchange and business transactions.
Local restaurants, transport providers, accommodation facilities, cultural centres, small businesses and tour operators also have an opportunity to directly promote their business ventures.
Bulawayo is indeed a gold mine for this form of tourism (township) with the former townships of Makokoba, Pelandaba, Luveve, Tshabalala, Pumula and Mpopoma being cultural treasure troves.
As for Makokoba it is a cosmopolitan suburb and the oldest residential area in Bulawayo renowned for setting trends and a diversity of cultural treasures among other things.
Township tourism emerged in the a�?90s in the metropolitan cities of developing countries where tourists were encouraged to visit the disadvantaged areas of the cities and see how the local people lived.
Meanwhile, according to Zimbabwe Tourism Authority at least 325 companies are participating at the countrya��s premier tourism event.
Countries from the Southern Africa Development Community that are participating at the expo include Botswana, South Africa, Malawi, Mozambique, Zambia, Angola, Namibia, Lesotho, Mauritius and Tanzania. Ghana, Egypt, Uganda, Nigeria, Rwanda, Kenya and Ethiopia are also exhibiting.
The premier tourism event is also hosting countries from Asia and Europe namely Indonesia, United Kingdom, Italy, China, Belgium and France.
The event also has a comprehensive local and international media programme to market the nation through media practitioners both from Zimbabwe and the rest of the world.