The announcement of the rescheduling of Africa’s Travel Indaba on February 8 was met with heavy criticism by tourism stakeholders, both those showcasing their destination products as well as buyers booked to attend the show.

“We will certainly have losses with the change of date. Directors, product managers, travel agents and even media have planned their business trips – they have full-time jobs with other commitments, and SA is not their only destination; they are not at our disposal, we should be at theirs,” says André Laget, Managing Director of Akilanga DMC and Events.

Christiaan Steyn, Marketing Manager of Drifters Adventours, a Division of Tourvest, adds: “If the new dates are drastically different I would think that many international buyers will not be able to attend the show due to previous arrangements.”

“It is most unfortunate that the Travel Indaba has had to be rescheduled because of the election date,” says Rodger Foster, CEO of Airlink, “but it is what it is and the tourism sector will have to deal with it. A lot of international visitors attend Indaba and most plan their travel and accommodation long in advance. Many international agents and tour operators attend both Indaba and the ‘We Are Africa’ trade show in Cape Town, which is scheduled the week after the original Indaba date. It may not be possible to combine both trade shows in a single visit, and therefore it may not make sense to reschedule Indaba in 2019 at all.”

CEO of Tourvest Destination Management, Martin Wiest, is concerned with the alignment of new dates with contracting and brochure deadlines: “If Africa’s Travel Indaba positions itself as the critical meeting for the trade – because it’s where decisions are made about product for the brochure year – then delaying that will have a severe impact on contracting and brochure deadlines. My personal view is that should the dates be moved in any direction it should be forward, keeping in line with these key trade deadlines.”

Fanie van Zyl, Managing Director of SA Coach Charters & Bus Rentals, sums up the response of much of the trade to this decision: “Once again it is a sad situation, as Government did not liaise with major role-players, but party politics took preference.” Steyn adds: “At a time when tourist numbers are down, Indaba should be the place where the destination is promoted and confidence installed, yet now the biggest trade show in Africa needs to make date changes three months before the show starts.”

SA Tourism, curator of the event, is expediting actions to find a resolution to the required date change, to balance meeting the President’s requirement and finding the best solution for the trade and participants involved in the Indaba. A task team has been formed to investigate and finalise the best outcome as quickly as possible. Led by Amanda Kotze-Nhlapo, Chief Conventions Bureau Officer of SA Tourism, the team will also comprise the Tourism Business Council of South Africa, National Department of Tourism, the Durban ICC, Tourism KwaZulu-Natal and the City of Durban.

CEO of SA Tourism, Sisa Ntshona, says the team has been formed “to discuss and set out various options and scenarios…ultimately making a recommendation for the Minister to sign off”.