Soccer mania overtakes South Africa's annual travel convention and trade show

By: By Deborah Dimond



Panelists for INDABA’s Global Media Face Off at Indaba 2009 include SA Tourism, FIFA,  SA Local Organising Committee (SA LOC), Airports Company South Africa (ACSA), South African Broadcasting Services (SABC) and the South African Police Service (SAPS).// (C) Reg Caldecott

It was soccer mania throughout INDABA 2009. The annual South African convention and trade show assembled more than 1,800 exhibitors and 3,500 attendees at the Durban Convention Centre during May 9-12 and the focus of the show was undoubtedly the 2010 FIFA World Cup.

Over the last five years the country has been busy getting ready to take her place in the international spotlight as more than 700 million viewers are expected to tune in to watch the games.

“We are using INDABA this year to show that we are ready and waiting to welcome 2010 visitors. It’s time to come to South Africa, celebrate 2010 with passion and enthusiasm and participate in the many lucrative opportunities offered by this winning industry and nation,” says Didi Moyle, acting CEO at South African Tourism.

The convention did have its sobering moments when CNN host Richard Quest and host of INDABA 2009’s Global Media Face-off quoted Shakespeare in his opening statement, “It was the best of times, it was the worst of times.” The familiar phrase seemed to echo the undertone of this year’s conference and trade show. Fiscally the country is coming to terms with its own national recession amidst the backdrop of a depressed global marketplace.

As part of South Africa’s efforts to accommodate the games and the estimated 10 million visitors, the country has been spending billions on building and renovating ten World Cup stadiums, upgrading the country's airports and improving the roads and rail networks. But these massive projects that have been at center of controversy.

At INDABA’s Global Media Face-off a large portion of the time was spent assuring the world’s media that all that the infrastructure needed to handle the World Cup and surrounding events, i.e.: transportation, security, hospitality services, etc. would be up and running come June 2010. However the top concern was more abstract, concerning the legacy benefits of such an extravagant undertaking. It was one of the Face-off’s panel guests, economist Iraj Abedian who phrased it best when he said, “Real, long-term value of World Cup lies in the investment in national image, reputation and exposure.” It is that exposure that Americans consumers will soon see.

In May 2009 South Africa Tourism will be releasing a new media campaign: Feel the Diski Rhythm : It’s Time to Celebrate 2010! The ads will focus on the both the FIFA Confederations Cup and the 2010 FIFA World Cup and showcase South Africa as the first African nation to host the games. These advertisements will be seen in the United States broadcasted on CNN and the National Geographic channel.