Acting Tourism Minister Kirsty Coventry officially opens the 2019 Sanganai/Hlanganani World Tourism Expo. Picture: Margot Dempsey
Bulawayo - The awards ceremony for the 16th Sanganai/Hlanganani World Tourism Expo saw host city  Bulawayo score a double win including the overall award for best exhibitor's stand. 

The awards formed part of the official opening ceremony which saw hundreds of buyers, exhibitors and other dignitaries gather at the  Bulawayo Trade Fair Grounds for an evening of live music, drinks and networking.

The keynote speaker at the event was Africa's most decorated Olympian, acting Tourism Minister Kirsty Coventry, who is also  the current Minister of Youth, Sport, Arts and Recreation. She thanked the foreign exhibitors and buyers for their interest in the expo and in the country and commended local exhibitors for their work.

"We are a people that know how to adapt to change. We have overcome some challenges over the last 20 years. We are going through some tough times now and really the last two days (of the expo) not just just proven to me that we stand up and we rise to the challenge but that we will overcome anything that stands in our way," Coventry said.

Bulawayo, affectionately dubbed the "City of Kings and Queens", was voted Best Zimbabwe Stand and also won first place for Best Overall Stand.

Ethiopian Airlines scooped top honours in the airline stand category ahead of Air Zimbabwe and Air Tanzania. Picture: Margot Dempsey

Ethiopian Airlines was named Best Airline Stand with Air Zimbabwe snagging second place and Air Tanzania scoring the third place spot.

The other winners were:

Best First Time Exhibitor Stand:  Beneath Arica Travel & Tours

Best International Stand:  Hospitality & Tourism Association of Botswana

Best Public Institution Stand: Mutare Polytechnic

Best Tour Operator and Travel Agent: Wild Horizons

Godfrey ‘Chief’ Koti, the head of corporate affairs at the Zimbabwe Tourism Authority, was the master of ceremonies for the event. Picture: Margot Dempsey

Best Hotel Stand: African Sun

Best Accommodation Non Hotel Stand: Antelope Park

Best Motor Vehicle Hire Stand: Auto World.

Best Rural District Council Stand: Tsholotsho RDC

Best Women Owned Facility Stand: Nnino Ceramics

Best SME Tourism Related Facility Stand: TV Sales & Home

Some of the winners on stage at the Bulawayo Trade Fair Grounds on Friday night. Picture: Margot Dempsey

Saturday, which marks the final day of the expo, will see the event open to the public and a huge turnout is expected.