By Jimoh Babatunde
South Africa for three days brought together African tourism stakeholders to do business with the best tourism buyers from around the world as it hosted its 25th Tourism Indaba in Durban . The Indaba tourism show which ended Monday had over 1,000 exhibitors from 20 African countries, about 2,000 buyers from the world’s tourism source markets and about 750 members of the media.
It was an opportunity for the South African government and its people to tell Africans and the world that the recent attacks on foreign nationals in the country, Xenophobia, was not in their character as they are open to people of diverse nature. According to the Chief Executive of South African Tourism, Thulani Nzima, “the success of the South African tourism industry is inextricably bound to that of the African continent.”
This view was shared by the South African Tourism Minister, Derek Hanekom, during the opening ceremony when he said they are united in their resolve to build the positive brand of Africa as a continent of unparalleled tourism opportunities and to enhance tourism as a mainstream economic sector, “a sector of hope for Africa and its people.”
He disclosed that on the African continent, tourism directly and indirectly supports 20.5 million jobs and represents 8.1 % of Africa’s gross domestic product. “In some countries , more than 50% of their GDP comes from tourism.”
Hanekom explained that international arrivals in Africa increased to 56 million tourists last year and are expected to grow by between three and five percent in in 2015, “this will probably exceed the projected growth in global arrivals, which is between three and four percent.” He added “ in South Africa, taking the direct and indirect impacts of tourism together, our tourism sector now contributes over nine percent of gross domestic product and supports over 1.5 million job opportunities countrywide. And it continues to grow.”
The Minister noted that Indaba embraces a spirit of partnership, of collaboration and winning together. “Exhibitors are the real heroes of Indaba, driving growth in tourist receipts and delivering on the promises they made in marketing their destinations. “Tourism is a fantastic South African success story, growing ahead of other economic sectors, creating jobs and attracting foreign direct spend and investment in South Africa. This year the Indaba theme recognizes the vital importance of the tourism industry and exhibitors on the trade show floor. They are the team that is helping the continent forward.”
Derek Hanekom noted that Indaba is a critical component of growing tourism to South Africa as it gives exhibitors a premium platform to showcase their products and services as well as do business with the world. “The direct result of a successful Indaba is sustained growth in receipts, investment in infrastructure, thriving tourism businesses and growing numbers of people employed in the industry.”
Speaking on the marketing efforts of the South African Tourism, its Chief Executive, Thulani Nzima, said their marketing efforts are paying off, “while South Africa is justifiably world-famous as a premier safari destination, the heritage and culture attractions of our destination are now compelling reasons to visit South Africa too. “Most importantly, South Africans are warm, friendly and welcoming people. It is the South African people , as much as the destination, that make for an unforgettable travel experience.”
Nzima said South African Tourism works with its partners in the trade to position the tourism Indaba as the only distinctly African global travel trade show in the world, uniquely born in Africa to grow the African travel sector.
African tourism ministers meeting
In positioning Indaba to grow African tourism, the South African Tourism Minister, Derek Hanekom, hosted the second annual African Tourism Minister Summit to discus issues pertaining to the growth and development of tourism on the continent. Hanekom noted that the African region has many assets for tourism development, but challenges to infrastructure development, visa facilitation and connectivity and the financing of tourism development have the potential to offset the African tourism growth.
He said though Africa is overwhelmed by social and economic challenges, “but when consider the huge potential that tourism offers the continent, we must embrace our task of working together to advance our collective strengths and address our challenges.” He said tourism is already changing lives, creating jobs and building communities and that it has potential to change even more lives for the better. “Africa is home to 15% of the world’s population, but receives only about four percent of the world’s tourists.
Imagine if we , collectively , grew our share of global tourist receipts to 15%. Imagine the jobs we could create, the lives we could impact and the change for better we could affect across Africa.” Hanekom noted that Africa needs to support each other and stand up for each other, “we need to work, collectively, on the perception that the world has of our continent and put our collective will into action to advance Africa. When we support each other , and when we learn from each other , we build success . Your success is our success and our success is your success.“