UNWTO exhibitors cry foul

EXHIBITORS at the United Nations World Tourism Organisation (UNWTO) General Assembly in Victoria Falls yesterday said they had not benefited from the event which ends today, since their allocated exhibition centre was not easily accessible to the delegates.

Report by Richard Muponde

The exhibitors are housed in a tent erected at the golf course behind Elephant Hills Hotel, where delegates and tourists rarely visited.

Reports are that the exhibitors were made to pay fees ranging between $120 and $700, but they did not record much business during the duration of the conference before it was moved to Zambia yesterday.

Some of the exhibitors who spoke to Southern Eye expressed their anger over the issue. They said they incurred losses in coming to the international jamboree, which did not benefit them.

“I don’t know why we are here,” an official of a leading pharmaceutical company said on condition of anonymity. “We used a lot of money to come here and we did not recover it. Moreover, we were made to pay for stands. It is unfair for the officials to call us to exhibit here and hide our stands from the sight of delegates.”

Tourism and Hospitality Industry minister Walter Mzembi confirmed the development and said he ordered the exhibitors to take up stands near the Convention Centre, but they ignored his call.

“It is a problem which we have noted,” he said.

“But it’s coming from our government officials as they don’t implement our directives.

“I gave an order that the exhibitors be moved from that site to stands near the marquée where they have access to delegates, but that was not done.”

Mzembi denied that exhibitors had been made to pay. The minister said exhibitors should complain, but market their businesses, as delegates could not just go to their stands without knowledge of their products.

“Why would they sit in those stands expecting delegates to walk in?” he said.
“They should have come up to the conference centre and marketed their products — that is business.”

However, another exhibitor said the UNWTO conference had only benefited the elite.
“Except seeing delegates being shuttled to and from the conference centre, there is nothing we came here for,” Albert Malufu, an exhibitor said.

“We spent days in the scorching tents for nothing. Next time the government is holding a conference which calls for exhibitions, they should make sure they give us a convenient place.”

The sentiments were made by a number of exhibitors, who were very bitter about the situation.

“Now that conference has been moved to Zambia, we are only left to count our losses. This conference will remain in our minds for the wrong reasons,” Moses Mudimba, who sells cultural artefacts said.

“It is good it ended early. We were going to lose more.”

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