I’ve yet to come across an industry as outspoken as the tourism industry. The sector is characterised by passionate people that speak their mind. It’s gratifying to engage with the sector on the side-lines while reporting the various goings on.

But forthright and candid dialogue can deteriorate to something that adds no value when we’re not constructive in our criticism. The discussion around Indaba is a case in point.

The inbound tourism industry in South Africa and on the rest on the continent benefits from Indaba. The show’s continued success is in everyone’s interest so it’s up to the trade to help revitalise the show.

The new leadership of SA Tourism have made it clear that they want to engage with the trade. Ahead of next year’s show, SA Tourism will be engaging further with the trade to get input to shape future shows.

Yet, at the first mention of a webinar with SA Tourism to engage the industry on the show, there’s already a comment that “feedback is ignored”. There’s a new leadership team – this will be SA Tourism CEO Sisa Ntshona’s and SA Tourism GM: Strategic Events and Exhibitions Neil Nagooroo’s first show in their new positions, while it’s SA Tourism Chief Marketing Officer, Margie Whitehouse’s second. If feedback was ignored in the past, is it a reason to not engage now? Surely not.

Anyone arguing that SA Tourism has ignored feedback on Indaba should take a look at the changes coming to this year’s show. Sure, it’s not the overhaul the industry may have wanted, but pretty much every tweak introduced to the show follows on from industry feedback.

The industry complained about the hosted buyers so SA Tourism introduced a verification process for hosted buyers and also gave exhibitors the opportunity to nominate hosted buyers. An initiative has also been introduced to clamp down on missed appointments.

Established tourism players complained about the level of support offered to small and medium businesses and this year Satsa and SA tourism have joined forces to mentor and train SMEs ahead of the show. From the participating SMEs, 90 have been chosen to exhibit at the show, while Satsa partnered with SA Tourism to offer industry an affordable option for exhibiting at the show.

The new leadership also negotiated with the venue, the Durban ICC, to again offer exhibitors the opportunity to showcase their food offering, because exhibitors had asked for this.

One of the things that sets Indaba apart from some of the other shows happening in the country is that while SA Tourism outsources elements of the show, the organisation doesn’t profit from the show. According to SA Tourism’s 2015/16 annual report nearly R10 million was allocated to Indaba support.

The industry has benefited from this investment and continues to do so. When I speak to tour operators who continue to support the show, I’m always told the same thing: Their presence at Indaba is essential to meet many of their overseas partners. This is no doubt the case too for those who choose not to exhibit, but continue to attend the show. Product owners falling into this category should also take a look at the benefit they derive from the show.

If you’re attending the show to sell your product to buyers, overseas and local, at the show, without paying the cost of exhibiting, who is footing the bill?

If I’ve still got your attention, your business benefits from the success of Indaba. Help SA Tourism overhaul the show by engaging with constructive criticism instead of whinging. After this year’s show, SA tourism and Tourism Update will host a webinar so that SA Tourism can hear your thoughts on this year’s show and your ideas for future shows. Participate by registering here.