Last updated: 09:21 AM ET, Mon May 11 2015

Indaba 2015 Marks New Beginning under New Tourism Minister

Destination & Tourism | David Cogswell | May 11, 2015

Indaba 2015 Marks New Beginning under New Tourism Minister

PHOTO: Singers and dancers perform at Indaba's opening ceremony. (Photo by David Cogswell)

Indaba, the Africa travel trade show, opened in Durban on Saturday, May 9, and ran over the weekend through Monday, May 11. South African Tourism, the sponsor of the show, reported that the event was attended by more than 1,000 exhibitors from more than 20 African countries and 2,000 buyers from around the world.

It was the 36th annual Indaba. Indaba started as a travel trade show for South Africa alone, then expanded to include all of Southern Africa and in recent years has become a pan-African trade show, representing members of the travel industry of the entire continent.

In attendance were high-ranking officials of the tourism ministries of many African nations, including Angola, the Democratic Republic of Congo, Lesotho, Madagascar, Mauritania, Namibia, Sierra Leone, Senegal, Swaziland, Uganda, Zambia and Zimbabwe.

The 2015 edition of the show was the first Indaba attended by Derek Hanekom, South Africa’s new minister of tourism, appointed earlier this year.

At the opening ceremony of the conference, Hanekom told the audience that he was “impressed by the authentic products and offerings from South Africa and the rest of our spectacular continent. And I am proud to be a part of the spectacular event that takes our extraordinary offers to the world.”

Hanekom noted that May 9 was 21 years to the day from when Nelson Mandela took office as South Africa’s first democratically elected president. Mandela himself had opened Indaba that year, and he told the members of the travel industry gathered there, “It is in tourism that nature and humanity meet most equitably and profitably… It also provides the resources for the conservation of our natural heritage. Furthermore, tourism is making an important and valuable contribution to the South African economy.”

Indaba has been adapting to competition from the rise of several new African travel trade shows that have emerged in recent years, including We Are Africa in Cape Town, the luxury show ILTM Africa in Cape Town, World Travel Market Africa in Cape Town and Africa Travel Week in Cape Town.

While the new trade shows are for-profit enterprises, Indaba is produced by South African Tourism, the tourism promotion entity of the government of South Africa for the purpose of promoting business opportunities for participants in Africa’s travel industry.

Since the new trade shows also support tourism in South Africa, the South African government supports them as well as they share a common objective in supporting the travel trade of South Africa. Therefore, Indaba does not try to compete head-to-head with them, or to protect its niche, but rather to adapt and expand its niche to areas not covered by the new trade shows.

“In the next few months,” Hanekom said, “we will be announcing measures to make Indaba even more competitive. We will be issuing a call for proposals from prospective partners with a global reach to work with us and to expand this ship’s sailing routes…. we are united in our 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.”

Hanekom also addressed the sensitive issue of recent incidents of violence against immigrant communities that have taken place in Johannesburg, Durban and some villages of KwaZulu-Natal, threatening to stain South Africa’s image and damage its tourism industry.

“We are also united in denouncing the spate of recent attacks on foreign national living in our country. These deplorable incidents of violence do not reflect who we are as a nation or who we are as a continent.

“Thanks to the swift and decisive action of our government, and the support of the overwhelming majority of our people who respect human rights, the divisive intentions of those behind these attacks have been neutralized. We have also begun the work of addressing the underlying causes of the violence. South Africa will never allow the criminal actions of a few to derail the togetherness forged by the vast majority of our people in the past two decades of democracy.

“We are determined that our country will always be open to welcome people from around the world.”

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