BY OMOLOLA ITAYEMI
Africa’s top travel show, Africa’s Travel Indaba 2017 was the destination of choice for thousands of exhibitors, travel buyers, visitors and media from all over the world converging on the Inkosi Albert Luthuli International Convention Centre in Durban on Tuesday, 16 May in a bid to experience the dynamic African travel industry in all its diverse glory.
Over the course of more than 35 years, the 3-day show has become regarded as Africa’s top travel show, with a strong focus on doing business aimed at growing travel on the continent. This year, 7,000 delegates from 21 African countries are participating in the vibrant city of Durban, to the spectacular scenery and warm beaches of KwaZulu-Natal, and to the cultural melting pot of South Africa.
On descent into Durban, visitors were greeted by Setswana dancers at the airport and then enjoyed an evening of fashion and cuisine at The Joint Jazz Café with Wilson Muyeka from the Democratic Republic of Congo as one of the designers.
Despite his current political troubles, President Jacob Zuma declared Indaba open in what some termed a very inspiring and positive message laced with humourous quips. He started by referring to his earlier appearance in this same venue, hosting Heads of State and global captains of industry & commerce for the World Economic Forum on Africa, reminding the audience that this is yet another wonderful marketing opportunity for the African continent and going by the cheers of the audience, he is obviously on the right path.
To further elaborate his assertions, he reiterated the need for the audience to enjoy the wonderful welcome his country offers. ‘’We are truly pleased to have our 21 sister African countries exhibiting at this year’s Travel Indaba. You will find that we are a colourful and robust nation of diverse cultures and traditions. We are called a world in one country with good reason. We welcome you at a time when tourism is riding the crest of the wave. In South Africa, on the African continent, and throughout the world, tourism continues to perform strongly, and the forecast for the future is also positive.
South Africa experienced a 13% increase in international visitors to South Africa last year. We are happy with this growth because tourism has a substantial potential of changing people’s lives for the better, especially during these depressed economic times globally,’’ he said.
Interestingly, he noted that in addition to job creation, tourism also provides opportunities for entrepreneurship and given the low barriers to entry, it makes it possible for new entrants particularly women and the youth to get into business.
Zuma, in encouraging words, alluded to the fact that United Nations World Tourism Organisation, (UNWTO) predictions that tourism around the world recorded its seventh straight year of sustained growth since the global financial crisis last year was an exponential index of growth.
With a satisfied mien, the South African president revealed that more than a billion people now travel around the world every year, and world international tourist arrivals grew by 4% on average with Africa enjoying an 8% increase in international tourist arrivals to reach 58 million arrivals. This means that Africa is growing at twice the rate of the global average.
‘’It is indeed most encouraging that more and more world travellers are discovering our continent. It means they see its value as an exceptional destination for holidays and business events.
“However, these arrivals to the continent represent only 5% of the one billion global tourists. This indicates the immense potential for further growth in the continent’s tourism sector. Working together as Africans with our global partners, we can open our beautiful continent to further growth in tourism. We are determined to move Africa forward in this business.” WE We Do Tourism
In South Africa, the general belief is that tourism is everybody’s business, so growing the industry is also everybody’s business.
To support this approach, Zuma announced a new national campaign called We Do Tourism, which challenges every South African to play his or her part and contribute to tourism.
According to Zuma, total contribution of tourism to the economy in 2015 was about 375 billion rands. ‘’Tourism now supports over 1.5 million jobs in total, and we want tourism to support over 2.2 million jobs by 2026. We are working hard to achieve further growth. Our aim is to make South Africa one of the top 20 tourism destinations in the world. In this regard, South Africa will be aggressively promoting our new 5 in 5 Tourism Growth Strategy.
‘’Simply put, we want to attract five million more international arrivals and domestic tourists within the next five years and to achieve these goals, we are strengthening existing markets, while also developing and investing into new international source markets such as the Middle East and Asia,’’ he said.