Themed "Plugging into South Africa's growth", Africa's premier travel show, INDABA, has been reduced to 3 days with a clear focus on "getting the business done".
"It has never been more important to plug into Africa’s tourist trade," said Thulani Nzima, Chief Executive Officer at South African Tourism, from the event.
"According to the United Nations World Tourism Organisation (UNWTO), Africa attracted three million additional arrivals, reaching a new record of 56 million in 2013.
"INDABA 2014 is the single biggest and best platform for doing business in African tourism."
Pan African INDABA
As well as welcoming the cream of South African exhibitors, this year sees the addition of nine new African countries to the show - bringing the total number of exhibitors to 23 countries.
INDABA is now a truly Pan African travel show, and whilst some fear this will dilute the Southern African offerings, the majority believe it will attract more international buyers and a lot more global interest.
New this year is the TechZone, which gives premium digital service providers such as Travelstart WAYN.com, Trip Advisor and Expedia an exciting space to meet both buyers and exhibiting delegates and has been a big hit.
My personal favourite is The Global Media Face Off, hosted by Richard Quest of CNN, where panelists are given a rigorous and riveting roasting on some of the more controversial hot tourism topics. The audience are encouraged to participate with special phones from which anonymous text questions can be sent. Questions on Ugandan homophobia along with the need for speedier visas and more open skies provided some stimulating and interesting debate.
Australia still core market for SA tourism
Even though growth may not be in double digit figures, Mr Nzima told Traveltalk that they are still more than satisfied with Australia's performance and that South African tourism will continue to invest in Australia as there is huge potential there.
"The similarity between our two country's cultures, climate and attitudes make South Africa a very appealing destination for Australians," he said.
I also caught up with Lalie Ngosi, South African tourism country manager here in Australia, for an update.
According to Ms Ngosi, from January to September 2013, Australian arrivals to SA rose by 3.1% over the same period in 2012. 91,880 Australians had travelled to South Africa during that time.
She also told Traveltalk that the priorities for the Australian team are to continue to showcase the diversity of experiences on offer in South Africa.
"Travel agents in the Australian and New Zealand markets remain a key partner to help in achieving our goals," she said.
"Although the industry and consumers’ buying patterns are changing, we continue to rely on the valuable knowledge and service agents can directly give our consumers.
"Many Australians choose South Africa because of our unparalleled Safari experience, and we pride ourselves on our high standards and product variety in this category; positioning us in the minds of Australians as the world’s great Wildlife Destination.
"However it does not end there. From adventure and luxury, to relaxation, world-class food and wine, rich heritage and urban culture, and the opportunity to meet warm and friendly locals along the way, are just some of the unique offerings Australians are being motivated about when they book their trip to South Africa.
"Our new marketing message will be revealed in July and will be an evolution of the current 'Bucket List' campaign, which focusses on all the incredible things you can experience in our country.
"We want to continue to motivate agents to sell South Africa as the combination of the excellent exchange rate, great value for money packages and array of experiences on offer from adventure and cultural enrichment, to world-class culinary delights and luxury."
So come on... Plug yourselves in!
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