This year’s Indaba show will feature a new floor layout; a luxury pavilion showcasing five-star tourism offerings; a more streamlined events programme; and a new Indaba app. While exhibitor numbers are expected to be in line with last year’s figures, the number of buyers attending the show is expected to decline.

Speaking at a media launch on Tuesday, SA Tourism CEO, Sisa Ntshona, revealed that over 7 000 visitors were expected to attend this year’s show. Between 1 000 and 1 200 buyers are expected to attend, while SA Tourism is targeting roughly 1 000 exhibitors.

The figures show that the number of buyers attending the show has continued to decline. Last year’s show was attended by 1 531 buyers. Buyer numbers have seen a decline since 2013, when 2 628 attended.

Exhibitor numbers have also shown a dip over the years, although last year’s 1 049 exhibiting companies was an increase on 2015’s figure of 1 029. Back in 2010, 1 820 exhibitors attended the show.

Ntshona said that while the number of buyers was down, SA Tourism was looking at how it balanced the quality and quantity of buyers at the show. He said the organisation had taken a close look at who it brought to the show, and also aligned buyers with the country’s source markets. He emphasised that new buyers were also being brought to the show because these people had the potential to grow tourism to South Africa.

Perry Moodley, of Durban Tourism, emphasised that these figures should be seen in the context of a global trend that was seeing trade show attendance declining. “It’s now about numbers, it’s about quality. The numbers have gone down for the last few years, but that is a global trend. Most international shows are declining, but the business is robust.”

Ntshona said South Africa and the African continent should get a bigger share of the global tourism market, adding that the Indaba show offered the opportunity for players in the country and continent to do this.

“All signs point to Africa being the next tourism frontier,” he said in a statement. “The continent as a whole reported an 8% surge in international arrivals in 2016, with Sub-Saharan Africa increasing by 11% and South Africa by a massive 13%. Last year, we broke records to reach 10 million international tourists coming to South Africa.”

“These figures far exceed the global increase in international arrivals of 3.9% overall. So Africa is definitely the happening place to be, with vast untapped tourism potential that could buoy the greater African economy and contribute to its prosperity.”

This year’s Indaba will take place at the Inkosi Albert Luthuli International Convention Centre in Durban from May 16-18.

Ntshona said that through SA Tourism’s partnership with the Department of Tourism and Satsa, SMEs that had been trained and mentored would participate at the show. “For me, one of Indaba’s highlights is our new Hidden Gems programme, which will help boost tourism by enabling smaller players. We are hosting 90 small tourism businesses at the show – emerging and existing enterprises that are at least 50% black-owned,” Ntshona said.

“They are drawn from each of South Africa’s nine provinces and we call them our Hidden Gems, because they are tucked-away treasures that only a select few know about.”