South Africa Minister of Tourism Derek Hanekom (right) addressing the media as South African Tourism CEO Thulani Nzima (centre) and Business Times Columnist Bruce Whitfield look on
Marianne David reporting from Durban, South Africa
Africa’s top travel show Indaba 2015 opened at the International Convention Centre in Durban, South Africa, on Saturday, kicking off three days of buyer-seller meetings, enabling the showcasing, marketing and selling of the African continent’s leisure tourism offering to the world.
With its tourism sector outstripping growth in all other sectors over the last two decades and also outstripping growth in global tourism, while contributing 10% of GDP, tourism is top of the agenda for South Africa.
Speaking to Sri Lankan media on the opening day of Indaba 2015, South African High Commissioner in Sri Lanka Geoffrey Doidge said South Africa was very keen to see tourism linkages grow between Sri Lanka and South Africa and called for increased trade between the two.
“It is very important that we link these two countries with tourism. At the end of the day tourism is about trade and we need to improve our trade with Sri Lanka,” he asserted.
Doidge also expressed hope that Sri Lanka would draw lessons from South Africa’s experiences in tourism: “Twenty years ago, South Africa attained freedom; we came out of many years of conflict and just like Sri Lanka, we were very keen to expose our country to the world. Tourism was very low, but now our figures are between 15 and 18 million a year. We think that Sri Lanka has the same potential.” “Sri Lanka needs to develop its natural resources, its parks, its lodges; there is a world of experience here from people who have come from similar backgrounds, where there has been a lot of conflict, and we are now opening up to the world,” he added.
South Africa Minister of Tourism Derek Hanekom, who visited the stalls in the morning on 9 May prior to the grand opening the same evening, asserted that tourism in South Africa was a spectacular success story.
“Tourism grew 6% in 2014 and continues to grow. Due to South Africa being a very attractive destination, tourism’s contribution to the economy in totality was 10% of GDP, which is very significant,” he stated, adding that the sector employs over 1.4 million people.
Of 10 million tourists visiting South Africa, seven million are from other African countries. Apart from South Africa, 20 African countries are participating in Indaba 2015.
According to South African Tourism CEO Thulani Nzima, Indaba puts the focus firmly on the very heart and soul of the African travel and tourism success story.
Nzima asserted that tourism is one of Africa’s most stunning success stories, fuelling infrastructure development, creating thousands of jobs per year across the continent, attracting foreign direct investment into African economies and putting entrepreneurship on an upward growth trajectory.
Speaking to the media, Nzima said it was very important to position the country properly, noting that while it has been very successful as a safari destination, it was also important to look at heritage, culture, nature and lifestyle factors.
“The warmth of our people is a sustainable advantage,” he emphasised, while also drawing attention to the destination’s value for money offering. “It is a destination that offers a variety of tourism experiences suited for various budgets.”
However, Business Times Columnist Bruce Whitfield stated that while the destination was competitive in terms of value proposition, it did not do so well in terms of safety, security, and international openness – the latter largely due to South Africa’s insistence on pushing forward draconian visa regulations.
Indaba is one of the largest tourism marketing events on the African calendar and among the top three ‘must visit’ events of its kind on the global calendar. Showcasing the best of Africa’s tourism products, it attracts international buyers and media from across the world, including Sri Lanka.