I have realised, more than ever, that Africa’s Travel Indaba and all the other top industry expos remain more relevant than ever in our digital era, to build fortuitous new partnerships, collaborations, and significant connections
Mention the COVID-19 pandemic in recent months and people tend to roll their eyes. This is not meant to take anything away from the personal losses and hardships individuals and businesses experienced, but most people have adopted the sense of moving on and don’t mention it any more.
However, it is an undeniable fact that the pandemic forever changed how we conduct business – whether you are working in the public or private sector. Over three years on, we find ourselves daily on the other side of a screen. Our lives have become quick and overcrowded with back-to-back meetings. This is convenient, yet very impersonal.
I was recently asked if an event like Africa’s Travel Indaba was still relevant in an era where everything had gravitated towards digital solutions. This is a familiar event for anyone forming part of South Africa’s tourism industry’s radar, and this too was halted by the pandemic. Last year saw the first event in over two years. This year’s event is forecast to double in the size of attendance, increasing the number of exhibitors and attendance figures from 2019!
At the launch of this year’s Indaba, Tourism Minister Patricia de Lille reiterated the point that, following the COVID-19 pandemic the sector felt it necessary and important to reposition Africa’s Travel Indaba to ensure it remained relevant in the current environment and boost South Africa’s economy. The aim is to bring in 5.7 million new tourists from across the world, which is an increase compared with previous years. And we are all for it.
A platform to create new allies
The power of Indaba, with its tagline this year of Shaping Africa’s tomorrow through connection today, allows for industry individuals to connect one-on-one over a cup of coffee and to discuss new and exciting things on their respective horizons. The buzzing scene is set with a multitude of tourism associations, tourist operators, hotel and accommodation groups and the media, to name a few. We are all excited to discuss potential and look for new collaborations. There are so many nuances that get lost on a virtual call, and having that face-to-face contact allows everyone to connect in more meaningful and personable ways.
Connecting big and small players in the industry
My personal approach to the Indaba may not be one that is the best practice for all – I have accepted every single invitation shared with me in my Indaba exhibitor diary (mentioning that my diary has been able to accommodate). I am thrilled to be meeting with people I have never spoken to, and I am humbled that these people are excited to work with us. We have noticed a lot of small tour operators who have grown during and after the pandemic and this amazing platform creates a new ecosystem of business for both big and small players to build connections we might otherwise not have been able to make.
Indaba is not just about reconnecting with people we know, but it is a space to meet brand-new people and adding them to your circle of business. These moments remind me of the quote from Paul Hawken, which encapsulates our industry, and professional partnerships so perfectly: “All is connected… no one thing can change by itself.”