By DANIEL JONES in Victoria Falls

ZIMBABWE’S tourism industry is pinning its hopes on meetings, incentives, conferences and exhibitions (MICE) to spearhead a revival after a year ruined by the coronavirus (covid-19) pandemic.

Victoria Falls is warming up to the trend up as organisations start to roll out these in the resort town, bringing hope to the industry changing its fortunes.

This is attributed to rollout of mass vaccination which has seen Victoria Falls being the first tourism destination globally to reach herd immunity.

More than 20 000 residents of Victoria Falls got vaccinated with Sinopharm, with almost all of hospitality industry workers getting vaccinated.

This has reignited confidence in the tourism destination.

The global pandemic had restricted international travelling and gatherings in Victoria Falls, just like other tourism destinations were left with no business.

MICE made a bigger contribution to arrivals and revenue in the tourism industry.

Nqobizitha Mangaliso Ndlovu, Environment, Climate, Tourism and Hospitality Industry Minister, earmarked these to revive the sector.

“We have seen hotels and conference facilities getting bookings for meetings. This is the route we have been longing for. We are still far but this brings hope,” Ndlovu said.

Zimbabwe last held significant conferences in February 2020, when the country hosted the sixth session of the Africa Regional Forum on Sustainable Development (AFRFSD), which had more than 4 000 delegates in Victoria Falls.

The year 2020 was challenging because of travel restrictions and a ban on social gatherings.

Lately, few local conferences have come through with the fourth Anti-Corruption, Integrity, Ethics and Corporate Governance for Zimbabwe 2021 training held last week.

This coming week, an information communication technologies occasion hosted by Postal and Regulatory Authority of Zimbabwe will be held also in the tourism capital.

A local all-stakeholders’ conference is also earmarked to start on Monday.

The Hospitality Association of Zimbabwe has welcomed the new developments.

“MICE is key to tourism revival and is about volumes, numbers which feed across the tourism business as their itinerary includes business and leisure. The pandemic had decimated the sector but with relaxation of restrictions and roll-out of vaccination we have started to see conference business slowly coming back,” said HAZ in a statement.

There are calls for conference facilities to rearrange their services as some may be redundant as some meetings will be held virtually.

Givemore Chidzidzi, Zimbabwe Tourism Authority (TAZ) chief executive officer, however, believes the virtual platforms that have taken the place of physical meetings is not a threat to the traditional conferences and business for conference facilities, but an augmentation that should be tapped into. – CAJ News