The return of the Zimbabwe International Trade Fair (ZITF) this year is expected to restore tourism recovery and business confidence in Zimbabwe as an investment destination, while impacting positively on the wider economy.
Industry and commerce players are already seized with preparations for this year's ZITF, scheduled for July 20 to 23 in Bulawayo, amid prospects for renewed business after the event was suspended last year at the height of Covid-19 lockdown measures.
This year's expo would be held for only four days instead of five guided by tight Covid-19 mitigation protocols under the theme: "Showcasing the New Normal for Business & Industry: Realities and Opportunities".
The drive to revamp business operations is being complemented by the ongoing mass Covid-19 vaccination programme aimed at enhancing health and safety for all Zimbabweans and visitors.
Private sector players have also increased collaborating and are working closely with Cimas Medical Aid Society to procure more vaccines to steer a free vaccination exercise among business members.
ZITF chairman, Mr Busisa Moyo, has advised stakeholders to brace for new features at this year's expo, which include heightened health and safety protocols, modified venue layouts, more digital and hybrid meeting platforms and an emphasis on numbers management.
Business leaders are convinced this year's trade fair would help restore investor confidence in Bulawayo, in particular, which is the country's manufacturing hub. Last year the city's businesses lost substantial business when ZITF was cancelled a month before its hosting.
"The ZITF return this year is a big welcome as we are going to see not only an increase in general business activity but tourism recovery in terms of accommodation services, which were severely affected by the Covid-19 lockdown," said Mr Kholisani Moyo, Bulawayo's business development officer.
"You will realise that our business consumption as a city is at its highest during ZITF and we expect this to boost the city's economic recovery. For Bulawayo, the ZITF is also a grand opportunity to showcase how prepared we are in dealing with the Covid-19 crisis as a key investment destination.
"As a city we will have to showcase new ways of doing business and we take this as a positive challenge, we will do our best."
Mr Moyo said the successful hosting of this year's ZITF will be a big win for Bulawayo and Zimbabwe as a whole as it will open possibilities for other cycles of big exhibitions, meetings and conferences, which are critical for the economy.
Hospitality Association of Zimbabwe (HAZ) president, Mr Clive Chinwada, said operators in their sector were warming up for ZITF as a key driver for demand for their services.
"ZITF is not only Bulawayo's biggest event but also the biggest trade fair on our national calendar," he said.
"Its return will, therefore, put smiles on the faces of operators in the city who for the first time in over a year will host the first major city-wide event.
"It is also a critical signal to the direction the economy will take in terms of opening up.
"To this end, the hosting of ZITF is a good and positive indicator for the outlook of our industry as the year progresses."
Mr Chinwada said the hospitality sector, in particular, has already put in place necessary protective measures for client safety in line with expected global standard hygiene sensitive priorities and additional measures tailor-made specifically to tackle Covid-19 spread.
"I can say with confidence that over and above the common protocols like temperature checks, physical distancing, and sanitisation, we also have additional measures including disinfection and deep cleaning of guest rooms and facilities to ensure that these are not just aesthetically clean, but are also hygienically clean," he said.
The Zimbabwe Tourism Authority (ZTA) said the ZITF was a cornerstone of the leisure and travel sector hence its return this year was a big win for the economy.
With both local and international exhibitors expected to come into the country, spokesperson, Mr Godfrey Koti, has rallied service providers to deliver their best saying the annual trade showcase will impact positively on the country's National Tourism Recovery and Growth Strategy.
"We are elated and look forward to this event with higher expectation as it will boost incomes for the sector.
"This is a grand opportunity for business and at same time we urge everyone to comply with guidelines for Covid-19 mitigation," he said.
Last year's event, which was set for 21 to 25 April, had attracted seven countries and the ZITF company had sold 94 percent of the exhibition space.