Roberta Katunga, Senior Business Reporter
THIS year’s edition of the country’s premier tourism expo, Sanganai/ Hlanganani slated for June hangs in the balance if the Zimbabwe Tourism Authority fails to settle the $147 000 owed to Bulawayo suppliers for last year’s edition.
According to the Parliamentary Portfolio Committee on Tourism, report released last week, ZTA still owes service providers in Bulawayo for the Sanganai/Hlanganani World Travel Expo which was held in June last year $147 000 which the Ministry of Finance and Economic Development had promised to pay.
The committee, headed by Rushinga representative in the National Assembly Wonder Mashange, revealed that major tourist promotion programmes will this year be negatively affected, that is, Sanganai/ Hlanganani World Tourism Expo and Harare International Carnival which together require a minimum of $1 million.
ZTA spokesperson Mr Sugar Chagonda confirmed that Sanganai/ Hlanganani was under threat from lack of resources.
“It is very sad that we have not serviced debts for last year’s suppliers as the promised funding from Government has not come through. We still owe a lot of money and this is something not good for us and our suppliers as the whole idea of the expo is to also create business for them,” said Mr Chagonda.
He revealed that the authority’s priority was to pay the suppliers what is owed to them before pushing the 10th edition of the expo. He said the ZTA had even gone a step further by engaging the Parliamentary Committee to lobby on their behalf.
“If we do not get funding, definitely there won’t be any expo as failure to get resources is a threat to Sanganai/ Hlanganani. We are, however, optimistic that we will get the funding,” said Mr Chagonda.
Last year, an almost similar situation prevailed as one month to the event, the Government was still to release funding for hosting of the show derailing the preparations for the return of Sanganai/ Hlanganani to Bulawayo.
However, two weeks before the event, the Government released $500 000 towards the successful hosting of the expo.
Meanwhile, the Portfolio Committee on Tourism revealed that besides Sanganai, several tourism marketing and promotion activities are also at risk as Treasury allocation to the Tourism and Hospitality Ministry in the 2017 budget was paltry.
The Ministry budget allocation decreased by 7,5 percent from $2 892 000 in 2016 to $2 674 000 for 2017. The International Tourism Department was allocated $118 370 which according to the committee will partially fund bilateral tourism relations and participation at regional and international tourism programmes.
“Other programmes are not funded that include promotion of women in tourism; Sadc trade in services; UNWTO regional training workshop and language training. The Ministry will not implement community-based enterprise projects and not attend regional workshops in 2017 despite being a priority.”
Policy, research, planning and development was allocated $133 481 which will partially fund domestic tourism survey and strategic plan 2017-2021 while domestic tourism was allocated $88 000 meant for UNWTO STEP programme and JICA programmes.
Nation branding was allocated $50 000 to fund nation branding research for three provinces only, benchmarking exercise in one country and a nation brand website. The ZTA was allocated $490 000 of which $400 000 is for recurrent expenditure and $90 000 for capital expenditure.
“The amount allocated to recurrent expenditure is 44,7 percent of the amount released as at October 2016. This clearly shows that destination marketing is severely underfunded as ZTA would only fund three travel shows (two in January and one in March). A total of 33 travel shows are required in order to fully market the country,” the committee revealed.
The consequential effect on tourist attraction will be worse compared to last year where the Government funded five travel shows, according to the Committee. Mr Chagonda said the ZTA was incapable of undertaking its mandate of destination marketing without attending travel shows.
“We are hoping these allocations will be reviewed as there is no substitute to attending these shows. It is our desire to attend all the required travel shows,” he said.
Mr Chagonda said the tourism authority was also engaging other partners for external support as local support is difficult to harness because of the prevailing economic situation in the country. He said it was important for the Government to play a leading role in destination marketing as the forecasted 0.8 percent tourism growth can only be achieved if the sector is invested in.
“Gone are the days that tourists could just decide to visit a destination without any effort to lure them, there is a lot of competition from other destinations in the region,” he said, adding that other tourism boards are funded 100 percent by their governments.