Indaba 2012

Indaba 2012 projects the future of tourism for South Africa By: Kathy Bryant
Indaba 2012, which attracted nearly 11,000 attendees, was held in Durban, South Africa. // © 2012 South African Tourism
Indaba 2012, which attracted nearly 11,000 attendees, was held in Durban, South Africa. // © 2012 South African Tourism

The Details

“Indaba,” the Zulu word for meeting place, aptly describes the annual African trade show by the same name, which was held this year in Durban, South Africa. Sometimes as unwieldy as the continent itself, the trade show brimmed with excitement for the future of Africa tourism with 1,500 exhibitors and nearly 11,000 visitors. With a focus on sub-Saharan Africa, the four-day Indaba 2012 event was themed “Shaping our Future Together,” and an entire building in Durban’s International Convention Centre was dedicated to different African countries and regions within South Africa. The bright African colors of orange, black and green were everywhere, interspersed with animal horns, zebra skins and leopard prints. Botswana and Mozambique appeared to be especially popular this year as well as the Western Cape, which includes Cape Town.

Another building featured elaborate booths dedicated to the myriad of experiences travelers can have in Africa, including safaris, visiting top hotels and resorts, exploring islands and touring wineries. (Most attendees had scheduled meetings to talk to their purveyors of choice.) The Moja Heritage Collection booth, for instance, showed the range of South Africa’s heritage with its 11 official languages and diverse cultures. Representing high-end accommodations were Relais & Chateaux, Red Carnation Hotels, Orient-Express and Leading Lodges of Africa. Their decorated booths at Indaba mirrored their properties with champagne bars, cafes and second-floor meeting areas.

Wildlife is still Africa’s main attraction, with safaris geared at spotting the big five (lion, elephant, rhinoceros, leopard and Cape buffalo). There were also tour operators promoting visits to wineries, safaris to bird watch, balloon safaris and tours geared to culture, art and heritage.

Looking ahead to the future of tourism in the country, South Africa’s tourism minister announced a goal of 15 million international tourist arrivals by 2020. This is a heady goal, especially for visitors from America. For starters, there are 54 flights a week to Africa from the U.S. — compare this with 1,000 flights to Asia, 2,000 to Europe and 3,000 to South America. Other issues, as were confronted at Indaba, are perceived crime in Africa and the long length of flights. South Africa is a nearly 17-hour flight from New York or Washington D.C. to Johannesburg, and then add another six hours from the West Coast. Another option for clients on the West Coast to consider is taking a 10-hour flight to Europe, visit there, and then take a 10-hour flight to Johannesburg. South Africa is in the same time zone as Europe, which will help with jet lag.

Guests who embark on the long-haul flight to South Africa will find that it is well worth it. With so many different tourist experiences available in Africa, it would be a shame to miss them, especially a safari under the African sky coupled with the sounds and sights of animals in the wild.

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