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How PR is key to tourism expos like Sanganai/Hlanganani 2022



THE Zimbabwe Tourism Authority (ZTA) hosts the Sanganai/Hlanganani World Tourism Expo in Bulawayo from the 13 to15 October. It highlights the most diverse range of our continent’s top tourism products and attracts international visitors and journalists.

Over the years, Sanganai/Hlanganani has been a tremendous success, attracting prominent African destinations and global tourism markets such as South Africa, Botswana, Malaysia, China, Zambia, Malawi, Kenya, Mozambique, Namibia, Indonesia, India, Italy, and many others.

 ZTA’s 15th edition of the annual tourism showcase returns after a hiatus caused by the Covid-19 pandemic that adversely affected the tourism industry, resulting in crippling lockdowns and deaths. The expo had to adapt and implement a virtual model.

 The United Nations World Tourism Organisation (UNWTO) estimated that the industry’s losses to the pandemic were close to US$2.1 trillion and that in Africa, arrivals shrunk as much as 74%.

However, Environment, Climate, Tourism and Hospitality Industry minister Mangaliso Ndlovu has revealed that Zimbabwe recorded 352 719 tourism arrivals in the first half of this year, a 115% increase from 164 062 tourist arrivals in the same period in 2021. Minister Ndlovu attributed the tourism recovery to the removal of Covid-19 travel restrictions and lockdowns, with tourist receipts jumping by 121% to US$337.5 million, up from US$152.8 million during the same period last year.

Sanganai/Hlanganani World Tourism Expo comes at an opportune time to highlight the recovery and once again endeavour to provide stakeholders with business prospects from traditional and new foreign source markets.

 Tourism industry is one of the most profitable industries in the world. It is also a global industry that relies on networks to connect people and places. Therefore, the industry is to reach as many people as possible.

ZTA corporate affairs manager Godfrey Koti agrees that communication plays an important role, be it through text, videos, or life experiences.

“Communications are part of creating a connection between people and places. It can show what is happening in real-time or help tell stories about places, cultures, or events. In this way, exhibitions are a great way for exhibitors to showcase their products and services to a bigger audience. They are also an excellent opportunity to network with other exhibitors and potential customers,” Koti says.

By being “newsworthy” and getting free advertising in newspapers and magazines, tour operators may bring attention to their businesses and tourism packages.

They will obviously need the services of public relations (PR) experts to create news articles and media releases for distribution to the media.

They should invest in PR to reap significant mileage by maintaining regular contact with local media and travel writers for state newspapers, magazines, and journals. Keeping them updated on any developments that may be of interest, and trying to recreate the experience at the exhibition, pays dividends.

Familiarisation tours are media or trade visits set up by the ZTA, either through online bookings, ZTA’s hosting programme, or through the exhibitors’ own media and trade operations.

“Visitors from the media and tourist buyers visit and write or speak about their experiences when they return home. These trips create a lot of publicity and exposure for Zimbabwe and the tourism destinations and products that form part of the familiarisation tours,” says Koti.

Media relations is the PR tactic of managing the media to benefit the exhibitors by ensuring maximum coverage at little cost. There are several ways exhibitors can showcase their tourism products in the print media, television and radio and the ZTA has applied it to a tee.

They engage in interviews, generating content, and making announcements to promote the expo and they encourage exhibiters to do the same. It is up to them to create opportunities to promote their tourism products. 

A media release is a document composed and submitted to the media detailing anything that may be “news”. Journalists read this Press release and, if it piques their interest, they write an article about it.

 Best of all, whatever marketing your company receives, as a result, is free! Exhibitions can be very competitive, and fighting for the attention of the same media is a reality.

So, exhibitors have the challenge to ensure that their media tactics catch the attention of journalists. They have to present a unique perspective about their product and participation in order that they stand out. Another brilliant strategy would be to grow the brand by positioning one as an industry thought leader and earn industry credibility.

There are other ways exhibitors can use by marketing themselves on television and radio, through live interviews and recording short advertorials. Other promotional activities include staging competitions on the exhibit and using the opportunity to make announcements that promote the business or community activities worth boasting about. Trade shows and events can be costly endeavours.

To help offset expenses and assure consistent future budgeting, social media can increase exposure at a show like Sanganai/ Hlanganani.

When used with other direct marketing initiatives, an emphasis on social media marketing in pre-show campaigns, during and after the event, provides visibility and offers several benefits. Pre-show social media activities should focus on raising awareness of the exhibit and encouraging show attendees to visit it.

 Teasers, unique sneak peeks, and competitions are excellent marketing tools. Calls to action might include coupons used only on the exhibition floor, a contest entry with prizes awarded on the show floor, or an incentive for scheduling a meeting on the exhibit. Social media as an exhibit strategy will be the subject of next week’s column.

*About the writer: Lenox Mhlanga is a specialist communications consultant with over 20 years’ experience in the profession. He has worked with high-profile clients such as the International Monetary Fund, CIMAS and the Securities and Exchange Commission of Zimbabwe. He can be contacted on mobile: +263 772 400 656 or email: [email protected]

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