Having a thirty-five-year history behind it, and with exhibitors from about twenty-one African countries, South African “Africa’s Travel Indaba”, is undoubtedly Africa’s biggest annual tourism marketing event as well as one of the top three events of its kind on the global calendar. Therefore, I am always looking forward to having a great time at this Africa’s own international expo and I must say that in the past four years that I have had the privilege of attending Indaba, it’s been truly fantastic as well as memorable.
Customarily, my Indaba experience starts as soon as I board the South African Airways (SAA) flight that takes me to Johannesburg, so on Saturday, 13th May, 2017, as soon as boarding formalities were over and flight SA 061 to South Africa took off, I settled in expecting to restfully enjoy the 5-star hospitality treatment that I have grown accustomed to receiving from the SAA crew.
This didn’t happen because of the young lady who sat beside me on the flight and who was travelling to South Africa for the very first time. The young lady whose name is Faith, clearly needed answers to the several questions she had bottled up inside and which were agitating her mind.
Consequently, I became her concierge of sort, all through the six-hour trip and believe me, she was so engaging that I spent the better part of the trip, assuaging the young lady’s fears so that she could overcome the unfounded anxieties she had about South Africa – a country that I have grown accustomed to and have become very fond of.
This is essentially so because as an African who is into the Tourism business, I clearly appreciate the deliberate and strategic measures that the government of South Africa has continued to take towards developing and promoting Tourism on the continent.
It is my belief that I managed to convince her that South Africa is a wonderful place to visit and that South Africans are continuously doing great things about tourism on the continent; at least that was the impression I got as we parted ways before going through Immigration and Customs procedures.
After we had been cleared by both the Immigration and Customs officials at Oliver Tambo International Airport, the South African Tourism (SAT), hosted team from West Africa which was led by the Nigerian Tourism Development Corporation (NTDC) Director General – Mr. Folorunsho Folarin-Coker and some Captains of the tourism industry in Nigeria moved to the South African Airways Premier Lounge, where our maximum sentence to the ten-day uninterrupted leisure and pleasure started. I agree that we were in South Africa to do tourism business, but this business was clearly reeked of leisure and pleasure.
At the very luxurious SAA premier lounge, we reconnected with old friends, made new ones, freshened up ourselves, rested a little and had a sumptuous breakfast before we took a connecting flight to Durban. Although it was raining in Durban when we go there, a team from Syavaya Tours, the ground operations company engaged by SAT to ensure that we were thoroughly pampered right from our arrival on Sunday 14th of May till we departed Durban on Tuesday 23rd of May 2017, were on ground at King Shaka Airport, Durban, to warmly welcome us.
Durban’s metropolitan municipality, ranks third among the most populous urban areas in South Africa, after Johannesburg and Cape Town. It is the largest city in the South African province of KwaZulu-Natal and it is also seen as one of the major centres of tourism because of the city’s warm subtropical climate and its extensive beaches. With the rate at which it rained in our first three days in Durban, my suspicion was that Modjadji, also known as the ‘Rain Queen’, was either registering her presence and inclusion in, or protesting her exclusion from this year’s “Africa’s Travel Indaba”.
Thabani Ndlovu the Director of International Sales for Africa & Indian Ocean regions as well as some other management staff of Hilton Hotel in Durban, where we stayed for seven nights, gave us an ambassadorial welcome which confirmed Hilton’s top global rating in the hospitality industry.
After we checked in and had lunch, and since it was still raining, our outdoor engagements were cancelled. Majority of us were given spa treatment and while others generally leisured around the very luxurious Hotel. In the evening of the same day, we attended the CEO’s welcome party, which was replete with African flavour.
At this party, guests were presented with various gift items made by some extremely creative young African designers, and mine was a very wonderfully-designed bow-tie, made from African print which I ended up wearing at most of the other events in support of, and to encourage these gifted young Africans.
On Monday 15th May 2017, our second day in Durban, some of those who had not gotten spa treatment, got theirs after which we all went to Phezulu Cultural Village where we got a very good dose of cultural tourism, learning a bit of the Zulu culture, particularly about how their marriages are consummated.
We were then taken to Classique Braai Lounge in Hillcrest’s Oxford Village for lunch, where we were treated to a South African traditional delicacy – Braai, which consists of several types of meat served alongside a variety of vegetables, salads and breads. I must confess that I had never had as much meat at a sitting as I had that day because of how delicious the various kinds of meat that we were severed tasted.
Indaba proper started on Tuesday 16th May 2017, and by 6:45am I was seated to partake in the Tourism KwaZulu-Natal Breakfast which started a few minutes after 7am. I have always been intrigued by the way the province has continued to articulately and passionately display its preparedness to continuously occupy a pivotal position in South Africa’s tourism drive, which they also did this year.
The truth is that, during Indaba, just like it is with other international expos, there are usually several events happening concurrently, so it’s smart to follow through with planned meetings and itineraries to fully benefit from the expo.
According to our itinerary, we moved to meeting room 22, for the beginning of the Speed Marketing session, a platform created for organizations offering tourism products to physically pitch their products to consumers from all over the world who are attending the expo.
Then it was time for Indaba’s official opening, and the opening for this year was particularly special because President Jacob Zuma, president of South Africa himself came to declare the international expo open. President Zuma used the opportunity to announce and launch a new national campaign that was called ‘WE DO TOURISM’, which he said is meant to challenge every South African to play his or her part in contributing to tourism.
According to President Zuma, the aim is to make South Africa one of the top 20 tourism destinations in the world, thus South Africa will aggressively promote its new 5-in-5 Tourism Growth Strategy, which is meant to attract five million international arrivals and domestic tourists within the next five years.
He said that some of the strategic moves being made include the further development of local tourism offerings in areas such as Township Tourism, Rural Tourism, Agro Tourism and homestays, all of which offer tourists a diverse range of South African experience. The president also declared that Durban is to continue to host Indaba for the next five years. After the opening ceremony, President Zuma then took a walk around some of the stands at the expo.
I then attended a media conversation that was hosted by Andile Khumalo, presenter of Power Business, and the conversation, which was broadcast live on Power FM, South Africa, had the CEO of South African Tourism (SAT) – Mr. Sisa Ntshona reiterating the fact that ‘tourism is everyone’s business because all South Africans benefit through and from tourism.
According to him, Tourism adds value to the lives of all South Africans in a range of ways, and as South Africans, they all have something to gain from the growth and development of their tourism industry. He said that this clarion call is to let everyone know that it is important for all to rally behind tourism, because the continued success of the industry is to everyone’s benefit.
After this, we went to meeting room 21 ABC, for the Cape-Town Tourism presentation, where Cape Tourism presented their special offerings such as ‘HALA ‘, which were products and services for Muslim consumers. We then retired back to the hotel to rest a bit, freshen up and prepare for an exhilarating party, that Hilton Hotel hosted at their Vasco’s Terrace that evening.
Wednesday 17th May was the second day of Indaba 2017, and after breakfast, I attended a couple of Speed Marketing Sessions before visiting other stands to follow up on some meetings and interviews, I had pre-planned. The day ended on yet another very exciting note as we attended a Gauteng Tourism cocktail that was held at Southern Sun Maharani Hotel, at no 63, Snell Parade, North Beach, Durban.
Indaba 2017 officially ended on Thursday 18th May, and as I had done after breakfast on the first two days, I attended some more Speed Marketing Sessions, went around to see more stands, met and interviewed more people, particularly at the Hidden Gem stands.
I then went on to attend the closing media briefing, the summary of which in my opinion is a renewed determination by South Africa to adopt ‘total inclusiveness’ in their pursuit of making tourism sustainable and very profitable, emphasising the essence of their newly launched campaign “I do tourism”; meaning tourism is everyone’s business. Indaba 2017 was wrapped up in style with a closing party at the Ushaka marine world.
Routinely, one of the major highpoints of Indaba, is people meeting other people from various walks of life and from across the globe, allowing them to make friends, so the morning of Friday 19th May, 2017 was kind of emotional as these new friends, ranging from buyers to media people as well as other participants had to leave for their various countries.
It was not all bad as the fun continued for those of us from West Africa. After breakfast, we headed for Ushaka Marine World and discovered that what we had seen the previous night at the closing ceremony was nothing when compared to experiencing the adventure with dolphin shows, seal shows, penguin presentations, shark dives, ray feeds and so much more that we experienced that day.
Lunch at the beachside was great, but it was nothing when compared to the dinner that we had, in which we had a 360-degree view of the beautiful city of Durban at a full revolution as we had a delightful meal, dinning at the only genuine revolving restaurant in the southern hemisphere – the Roma Revolving Restaurant Durban.
I guess that the highlight of dining here for most of us was the fact Mr. Gino Leopardi, owner of the restaurant personally saw to the fact that virtually all guests at the restaurant got the best of service.
Saturday 20th May was the day earmarked for shopping and the truth is that the Gateway Mall Durban is in a class of its own when it comes to the various levels of eye catching offerings that the Mall offers. After lunch, we were taken for a sundowner boat cruise during which we were treated to ‘Jollof Rice’ – a West African delicacy.
My guess is that my colleagues really enjoyed the rice as they sang and danced all the way back to the hotel. I have concluded that it is foolhardy trying to pinpoint my most exciting experience on SAT’s hosted trips as they have demonstrated to me repeatedly that they spend quality time on choosing their itineraries and that they take pleasure in pampering people.
We spent our last two nights on this trip at one of Sun International’s palatial resorts – the magnificent Wild Coast Sun Resort at Port Edward and just like when we arrived at Hilton Hotel Durban, the management of Wild Coast Sun Resort led by Jennifer Bettie – the group manager, Africa sales and marketing for Sun International, Petra Bainbridge – the banqueting coordinator at Wild Coast Sun and Mr. Didier Bayeye -marketing manager for West Africa & Indian Ocean regions were on hand to give us a very good South African welcome.
As soon as we were through with checking in, our exciting experience at this resort started with us going on quad biking, power boating, and ending up with the Segway tour. The day’s wonderful experience was capped with dinner at one of the many lush restaurants on the property. It was so exciting that almost every one of us graced the dancing floor, each with his or her own style, giving the whole affair depth and colour.
On the second day, after breakfast and a tour of the facility, we went on a boat cruise after which we had lunch at the prestigious country club on the property. The climax of Indaba 2017 for me was the Ice- breaking cum bonding event that we had on our last night where everyone had to say something about and give a gift to some other person that he or she must have chosen in a raffle that was held earlier in that day, it was simply the icing on the cake.
My take on the theme for Indaba 2017, is that tourism obviously cuts across all facets of our lives and that when tourism flourishes in a society everybody benefits. I also see a people resolved to do tourism better than they now do, thus I have decided to join them to do tourism a lot better than I do now.
Content of the post was provided by Inside Watch Africa