Some delegates visited the Inanda region of South Africa, where they were treated to a Zulu performance. // © 2014 Devin Galaudet
South Africa knows how to throw a party, and Indaba 2014 partied from May 10-12. One of Africa’s most important and largest trade events, Indaba, kicked off at Durban’s Inkosi Albert Luthuli Convention Centre (ICC). The room was packed for an evening of celebration with poetry, music, dance and inspired words from South Africa’s Minister of Tourism, Marthinus van Schalkwyk. Not only did Indaba celebrate travel but also South Africa’s 20th anniversary of democracy that emerged from apartheid in 1994.
On the convention floor, the festive vibe continued. Indaba placed visiting travel agents, buyers, 1,800 exhibitors from all over the continent and international media — more than 13,000 tourism delegates in all — for a three-day blitz of networking, one-on-one meetings, interviews and products for all things Africa. Agents feasted for the next authentic travel experience as Indaba loudly proclaimed, “Visit Africa! Not just South Africa.”
While Indaba takes place in South Africa, it was not the sole business focus. South African Tourism CEO, Thulani Nzima described the pan-African event as competitive cooperation or “Coop-etition,” explaining that there is competition among African nations for tourism dollars. However, “we have ubuntu” (loosely translated as “I am because you are”), he said, an African expression that promotes relationships and the long-term, well-being of others. In a practical way, many long-haul travelers visiting Africa are more likely to be visiting multiple countries during a single trip. The truly pan-African event showcased a variety of over 20 national tourism boards beyond South Africa including destinations as far away as Egypt, the neighboring countries of Botswana, Namibia and Swaziland and less-visited countries of Angola, Benin and Burundi.
South Africa Continues to Grow
As South Africa’s second-largest tourism sector, U.S. arrivals grew by 6.7 percent in tourist visits in 2013 over 2012. Additionally, the destination grew by 4.7 percent overall as South Africa inched toward 10 million international visitors in 2013 with 9.6 million.
South African Airways Plans for the Future
Additional announcements included the release of South African Airways (SAA) three-point “long term turn-around strategy.” The plan includes the optimization of operational costs; its ongoing wide-body fleet replacement plan; an increase of its code-share relationships through its Star Alliance Airline partners (such as United Airlines); and an additional 14 partnerships with non-Star Alliance members including: Jet Blue, Virgin Atlantic and Qantas. SAA will also look to limit its domestic premium services while expanding its regional affiliate network of partner carriers: Mango and SAX (South African Express) for its South African destinations.
Travel Agents Explore South Africa
Beyond the frenzied networking happenings at Durban’s ICC, hosted buyers and agents were treated to a variety of pre- and post-tours to familiarize themselves with South Africa. In Durban, events included the Inanda region for Zulu performers, Gandhi’s house and JL Dube Hall, where Nelson Mandela cast his first vote in South Africa’s first democratic election in 1994.
Fams continued to destinations in Kwazulu Natal, Drakensberg, Cape Town, Johannesburg, the safari locales of Madikwe and Kruger national parks and up the rugged switchback road that led into the kingdom of Lesotho, a move that proved South Africa’s commitment to presenting Indaba as a pan-African event — and one heck of a party.