By Nyasha Chingono
IN the words of Minister of Tourism and Hospitality Industry, Walter Mzembi, doubting Thomases must awake to the fact that the Harare International Carnival is here.
The annual event that is expected to draw three million Zimbabweans for a week of fun and entertainment is finally upon us and the fever has already gripped the capital city.
By Sunday it was already clear that the week would be exhilarating with various activities designed to bring colour to the sunshine city.
The weekend set the tone for the carnival with a car race held at Belgravia Sports Club where speed enthusiasts were treated to a day of fun filled motor racing.
Speaking during a press conference in the capital, Mzembi said Zimbabwe was committed to the annual event.
“If there were some doubting Thomases amongst our people, I’m sure that the three events that successfully took place during the weekend are a testimony that the Carnival is now here and there is no going back on this ambitious project. Moreso some of the carnivalists from some participating countries are already in the country with the bulk of them expected during the course of this week,” said Mzembi.
About 23 countries are expected to participate in the week-long event , with several groups already in the country for the opening procession.
“Definitely without the carnivalists there is no carnival to talk about. We appreciate the fact that it takes a lot of commitment from individuals and groups coming to participate particularly taking into consideration that our carnival is still teething and growing gradually,” added Mzembi.
Mzembi said government was optimistic that the carnival would yield return on investment in the next five to 10 years.
The project is still being funded by treasury and Big Time Strategic Group of South Africa.
“Government believes in the power of the carnival particularly its potential to generate the much needed revenue for the country. All the economic benefits we project will be a function of how much we invest now. It remains imperative for Government and other development partners to continue nurturing this project if the country is to realise meaningful gains from it,” said Mzembi.
This year’s carnival will run under the theme One Love, Our Unity, and Our Pride.
The carnival has also received a boost from the Airforce of Zimbabwe which has partnered the Zimbabwe Tourism Authority of Zimbabwe (ZTA).
“The ZTA went a step further this year by collaborating with the Airforce of Zimbabwe who are organising the Commander AFZ Charity Horse race that is taking place this weekend,” said Mzembi.
Mzembi was upbeat that this week’s carnival will spur domestic tourism, urging tourism and hospitality players to offer affordable packages.
“Certainly Harare will this week record increased traffic from across the country and beyond borders with people coming specifically to attend the carnival. This will definitely spur domestic tourism and to this end I want to implore our industry players, through their leadership here present give our people coming to carnival special and affordable packages. We want our people coming to carnival to have memorable experiences. Once we do that I am sure you will be guaranteed of repeat business,” said Mzembi.
This year’s carnival coincides with the Tourism Month and the World Tourism Day which will be held on September 27 in Bulawayo.
“Soon after this carnival we will be commemorating the World Tourism Day on September 27 in Bulawayo celebrations that will culminate into our premier tourism fair, the Sanganai /Hlanganani World Tourism Expo from September 28 to October 1 , 2017. All this is for the good of the destination, so we urge all the other sectors to work with us in our efforts to turn around the fortunes of the economy through tourism,” said Mzembi.