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April 21, 2014

Sub-Saharan Africa: Indaba Preview

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by Lesley Stones

A move to reinvent Indaba as the most important travel trade show for all of Africa, not just for the host nation South Africa, is paying off handsomely.
At least 22 other countries will be represented there this year in what is literally an A-Z of Africa. A slew of nations from Angola to Zimbabwe will set out their stands, including some countries rarely associated with tourism, such as Benin, the Democratic Republic of Congo and Niger.
They will be among 400 main stand exhibitors including big international names like Tourvest and Seasons in Africa, and high-end travel products from South Africa like Singita. Pre-opening figures showed that 1,441 travel and tourism buyers had confirmed in advance of the show, which runs at Durban’s International Convention Centre and Exhibition Centre from May 10-12. 

The focus on making Indaba more pan-African is timely, since a rival travel trade show is being launched this year by Thebe Reed Exhibitions. That event is World Travel Market (WTM), being held in Cape Town’s International Convention Centre from May 2 - 3. Just like Indaba, WTM Africa boasts an impressive array of exhibitors and aims to attract both international and African buyers.
Thebe Reed is going in aggressively, saying “WTM Africa promises to offer new business opportunities in a fresh environment,” in a clear jibe aimed at the now long-established Indaba. Its timing is also provocative, capturing exhibitors and buyers a week ahead of Indaba in a move that could induce exhibition fatigue and hurt Indaba’s attendance.
WTM also declares its intention to “deliver the right business contacts” and become “the new meeting place for Africa’s travel industry.”
Indaba’s organisers said their plan to revamp Indaba was not made in response to this new, disruptive and almost certainly market-dividing competition. “At last year’s Indaba already the (Tourism) Minister announced his department’s commitment to modernising Indaba, and activating plans to ensure that the show evolves into a genuinely pan-African travel show. This was before Reed Travel Exhibitions announced their intention to start an African show,” they said.
The Department of Tourism has issued a statement saying: “There is realistically room for only one such Pan-African trade show, and that is Indaba.” The department added that it was “committed to continue hosting, resourcing and positioning Indaba as the premier trade show in South Africa and the continent.”

Indaba does promise to be more exciting and revitalised this year, which should help it to deliver a bigger impact for exhibitors and a more productive time for the buyers. During last year’s Indaba a number of steps to modernise the trade show and expand it into a pan-African trade platform were announced in response to specific requests from the participants. “The soaring African participation is a result of the successful execution of a joint plan with our trade partners, trade shows, airlines and chambers of commerce in identifying and attracting suitable new products from our continent to Indaba 2014,” the Department of Tourism said.
This year the event will present premier safari destinations from across Africa, along with cultural experiences, adventure activities, golfing tourism and other sporting destinations.
It’s certainly in the government’s interest to support Indaba, because tourism, business conferences and incentive travel all have a huge impact on the economy. Hopefully that is something that other African governments will come to appreciate after various businesses representing their countries make their debut at Indaba this year.
Attracting business and leisure travellers to a country can have massive spin-offs for various sectors, including hotels, airlines, internal transport and the food and beverage industries. The key is partly to offer attractions that business travellers get a glimpse of, and will make a return visit to enjoy properly with their families. South Africa has those in abundance, with unmatched wildlife, brilliant beaches, high class hotels, fine food and entertainment that help to create the ideal holiday.
That’s why Indaba is such an important event for the country’s economy overall. Although the number of visitors who attend the show is tiny compared to overall traveller numbers, nobody can count the actual impact as they sell this destination to their networks of overseas travel agents, event and conference organisers and incentive travel specialists. 
It would be fascinating to calculate the direct impact Indaba has on the overall number of visitors and the amount they spend on our airlines, hotels and other services over the months and years to come.
As far as business or association conferences and events are concerned, South Africa is easily the most popular host nation in Africa. Our ability to cater for hundreds of delegates each event attracts has created thousands of direct and indirect jobs and brought billions into the economy.
Tourism Minister Marthinus van Schalkwyk has stressed that tourism is vital for the economy, contributing more to gross domestic product (GDP) than the automotive industry and sustaining more direct and indirect jobs than the mining sector.
Speaking to the South African Chamber of Commerce and Industry last August, he said that tourism’s direct contribution to GDP topped R84-billion in 2011, or 9% of GDP. Tourism also directly or indirectly sustained 9% of employment, or one in every 11 jobs. 
The minister has previously predicted that business tourism will benefit the economy by more than R1.6 billion in the next five years, with about 200 meetings and conferences scheduled to host more than 300,000 delegates.
While those visitors will initially come for business, not pleasure, hopefully they will have the time and the inclination to combine the two – then return later with their families.
When the Deputy Minister of Tourism, Tokozile Xasa, spoke at Meetings Africa in Johannesburg this year, she said that business events do more than just contribute to the economy. They also help to develop the country’s intellectual capital, allow us to demonstrate global leadership, and spur the improvement of our infrastructure. “Through the 2010 FIFA World Cup we increased our connectivity, improved our major roads and increased the number of hotel offerings, thus also increasing diversity for hosting meetings and conferences in our country. This major sporting event left a lasting legacy for the leisure tourism and business events industries,” she said.

“While exceptional growth has already been achieved, South Africa has only just begun to unlock the potential of the sector and is working to grow the size of the business events industry by at least 50% between now and 2020,” the deputy minister added.
That intention receives a boost each year from Indaba, by showcasing all the reasons why leisure and business travellers ought to put the country at the top of their agendas.
Other countries are waking up to the economic benefits that tourism delivers, which is why Indaba has attracted exhibitors from cross the continent this year. 

Growing that pan-African focus is a specific goal of South African Tourism (SAT), which has urged tourism professionals from other nations to exhibit. 
Nigerians are expected to have quite a presence, buoyed by the opening of SAT’s first regional marketing office in Africa, which opened in Lagos in January. At the opening, Tourism Minister Marthinus van Schalkwyk said economic vibrancy could be boosted if the two countries worked together to develop industries with the potential to contribute meaningfully to GDPs and job creation. “Tourism is certainly one such industry,” he said. 
Inter-country tourism had been driving the growth of Africa’s tourism industry for years, the minister said, and would keep it on a sustainable growth path going forward. “With renewed vigor and an unwavering dedication to showcase the African continent, Indaba offers any exhibitor the opportunity to promote their destination at the heart of Africa’s biggest, most established and best-attended travel trade exhibition. So we encourage you to come exhibit at Indaba as we work together to market our continent to the rest of the world,” the minister said.
According to the European Incentive and Business Travel and Meetings Exhibition (EIBTM), even regions suffering from low or no economic growth will see moderate growth for meetings, events and business travel this year. So it’s important to attract more regional conferences to keep the money coming. Drawing more regional events to South Africa will also move us up the International Congress and Convention Association’s rankings and increase our global visibility. “For most associations, meeting and conference organisers, Africa is not the tried and tested option yet. To get to that point we have to actively support the industry in taking that step,” Minister van Schalkwyk said recently. 

Last year SAT held a roadshow to visit travel trade professionals across the country. “We heard back from the trade on how we could further improve Indaba. We took these suggestions to heart, and have implemented some of them in order to better deliver to our exhibitors’ expectations,” said Thulani Nzima, SAT’s Chief Executive Officer.
SAT’s chief marketing officer Jan Hutton said some key changes were being made to transform the show and make it more relevant to its target market. Indaba was being reinvented to ensure it remained highly competitive, relevant, and met the needs of exhibitors, buyers and delegates, she said. The overall aim was to make it a contemporary pan-African trade show with fresh energy and clarity, while remaining a highly efficient opportunity to do business with some of Africa’s top travel brands. Global best practices were being followed to ensure the quality of engagement and quality of buyers and exhibitors, with a greater focus on business facilitation and quality business connections.
“We are modernising Indaba on every level – in format, look, feel and content – to make sure it’s relevant and future-proof,” Jan added.
Among the new features is a Premium Lounge, an area specifically for premium exhibitors to meet top international buyers. The Premium Lounge will promote deal-making by giving exhibitors an area where they can get down to serious business. The massive lounge will feature 52 managed office areas with high-speed Wi-Fi, branding panels and refreshments. Exhibitors are guaranteed up to 15 meetings a day with quality, hosted buyers, for a fee of R10,000 plus VAT.
New matchmaking software is also being introduced to help buyers and exhibitors meet the most appropriate contacts in the time available. 
For the pre- and post-Indaba tours SAT identified the seven most-in-demand experiences and created tours around them. They include a Sani Pass tour into Lesotho, the Drakensberg, the battlefields of Isandlwana and Rorke’s Drift, and The Freedom Route, taking in several sites linked to Nelson Mandela. Longer trips include a Kruger Experience and Victoria Falls. The most unusual is a tour for the blind that covers the Lowveld Botanical Gardens with its Braille Trail, Rotcher Wineries and Elephant Whispers. The entire tour highlights the senses of touch, taste, hearing, smell and spatial awareness. 

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