Africa’s Travel Indaba closed yesterday evening, after three days of intense connecting, marketing and promotion between Africa’s 22 countries – their tourism products and offerings, destinations, tourism authorities, and tourism stakeholders and buyers.

The SA Tourism-owned Indaba celebrated its 25th anniversary this year, seeing over 1 060 exhibitors from 22 African countries in attendance – more than 160 were first-time exhibitors; 26 Lap Of Luxury five-star exhibitors; and 135 Hidden Gems small business exhibitors. Over 1 460 buyers from 69 countries around the world were in attendance – 67% being international buyers, and 33% being South African.

A number of powerful presentations and panel discussions by some of Africa’s most influential tourism stakeholders complemented the continent’s collaboration of tourism players. One of these was the African Ministers’ Session, which focused on regional tourism this year. “This year we focused on how integrating regional tourism can be used as a tool for economic development,” said SA Minister of Tourism, Derek Hanekom. “We explored the role of governments in creating a conducive environment for regional tourism integration, and the role of the private sector and investors in developing regional tourism products and promoting growth.”

There were also speed marketing sessions which covered various areas of tourism interest such as heritage, history and culture; township tourism; and wildlife and adventure. ‘Business conversations’ involved panel discussions on transformation in the tourism industry; the fourth industrial revolution; responsible tourism; and strategies to maximise youth employment and development.

There was also a tourism investment seminar; TBCSA discussion on dealing with the crisis within the African travel and tourism industry; a women in tourism networking event; and various industry announcements.

The broad sentiment amongst exhibitors was that the trade expo had honed in on its true purpose: being a bridge for business. “I was here personally three years ago,” said Angela Chimpinde, Tourism Promotions Manager (International) of the Zambia Tourism Agency, “and it is far better than it was three years ago. The apps and matchmaking function were great, and I was happy to see the Indaba showcasing some of our own local tour operators and DMCs. The organisation was great, with excellent buyers being present this year.”

Nonkie Theko, sales representative of Qualito Craft Distillery in Limpopo, said Indaba was remarkable. “We were brought here by the Limpopo municipality, and have found it to be an excellent platform for promoting SMMEs. We are hoping that the links and relationships built here will open doors for us as a business, and for our regional businesses. We are aiming to be here again next year.”

The recently launched Tourism Conservation Fund (TCF) was also present at the expo. “The Indaba has been a great platform for the TCF – meeting potential partners who want to invest in developing commercial linkages of different kinds with community enterprises at different points along their value chain,” said Paul Zille, CEO of the TCF.    

Thompsons Africa felt that the expo really zoned in on quality as opposed to quantity this year. “We had the right people here – complementary businesses, from tour operators (TOs) to destination management companies (DMCs) from across southern and East Africa, who could connect and talk real, constructive and productive business. This is what it’s all about, and we loved the look and feel of the expo”, said CEO, Alessandra Allemann.