Judith Phiri, Business Reporter
THE Zimbabwe International Trade Fair (ZITF) Company is planning an exhibition with a difference this year that will see schoolchildren barred on the single public day set aside, while conferences, meetings and the prize-giving ceremony will be limited and attended strictly by invitation, Sunday News has learnt.
Last week ZITF, organisers of the country’s biggest annual trade expo announced that the show will make a return this year and will be held in July for four days instead of the usual five days, under tight Covid-19 mitigation protocols.
The exhibition was suspended last year after the country imposed a lockdown following the outbreak of Covid-19 in March.
This year’s exhibition will run from 20 to 23 July under the theme, “Showcasing the New Normal for Business and Industry: Realities and Opportunities.”
ZITF company chairman Mr Busisa Moyo told Sunday News that preparations have started with major consultations underway with various arms of Government especially those in charge of health to determine how some of the programmes will be held while at the same time observing Covid-19 protocols.
“We are still consulting and working that out with relevant health departments and more details will follow in due course,” he said.
Although Mr Moyo could not elaborate, Sunday News understands that there has been a recommendation to bar children on the single public day.
Three days have been set aside as business days while only one day instead of two, has been set aside as a public day.
In the past, ZITF had not only been an exhibition on trade but had become a major family event where the two public days were characterised by thousands of children in most cases accompanied by parents flocking to the Exhibition Centre where there will be a lot of entertainment. The exhibition was also held during school holidays to allow the children to attend.
However, according to this year’s school calendar during the days, schools will be open for the second term.
According to the re-arranged school calendar released by the Government for this year, the second term will run from 28 June to 10 September. Sunday News gathered that even on the business days, attendance will be mostly by invitation while conferences including the prize-giving ceremony will accommodate limited guests.
The Government has stipulated that gatherings are only limited to 50 people to minimise the spread of Covid-19.
The Government has also said people must always follow other measures to minimise the spread of Covid-19, such as social distancing, use of hand sanitisers and regular washing of hands.
A visit to the exhibition centre also revealed the need to urgently start preparations as tall grass has covered most of the spaces.
In a statement on Thursday, Mr Moyo said over the course of the next few days teams will be in touch with exhibitors, buyers and other key stakeholders with information on the show’s operational guidelines.
He also noted that stakeholders should expect to see new features which include heightened health and safety protocols, modified venue layouts, more digital and hybrid meeting platforms, and an emphasis on numbers management.
Mr Moyo said this year’s exhibition will present an ideal platform for stakeholders to converge and rebuild businesses while navigating the contours of the new normal which has become largely buttressed by technology and navigate new regional and global developments.
He also noted that with the planned voluntary mass vaccination for Bulawayo, the company hopes that sufficiently high numbers would have been vaccinated to achieve some level of Covid-19 herd immunity in time for the show.
“Our industry has been heavily disrupted by the pandemic and it is only through the support of industry partners such as our exhibitors and service providers that we will emerge more resilient and offer our events as primary agents for ‘post-pandemic’ economic recovery and renewal,” he said.
While the ZITF traditionally draws thousands of local and foreign delegates, bringing in wider business benefits mainly to the tourism sector and down the value chain, this year’s edition will be taking place under health and safety regulations provided to reduce exposure risk. Meanwhile, as at 22 April (Thursday), Zimbabwe had 38 018 confirmed Covid-19 cases, including 35 073 recoveries and 1 555 deaths. To date, a total of 308 071 people have been vaccinated against Covid-19.