The main message at the opening night event at INDABA 2018 – and one that is set to continue throughout Africa’s biggest travel trade show in Durban – is that South Africa is very much open for business.
Speaking at the welcome dinner, which was held at the impressive Moses Mabhida Stadium, South African Tourism (SAT) CEO Sisa Ntshona was frank when urging visiting buyers to "sell us, sell us, sell us".
Not that they haven’t been. According to Mr Ntshona, tourism to South Africa experienced “phenomenal” growth in 2017, lead by markets such as Chile and Brazil, which achieved whopping 78% and 75% growth respectively.
“Thank you once again for being friends of ours. Thank you once again for packaging and selling this beautiful country of ours,” he told delegates.
Mr Ntshona said that 1,747 buyers from some 80 countries would attend this year’s event, which is widely considered one of the three must-see tourism trade shows in the world.
Guests at the welcome event were treated to a taste of hosts Durban and Kwazulu Natal through a showcase of song, dance, art and even modeling.
“They say when you come to Durban, you don’t go back,” Mr Ntshona said.
But he’ll be hoping they do, and then return with their friends and clients.
INDABA 2018 takes place from 8-10 May in Durban. The theme for this year’s event is Africa’s Stories, Your Success, which aims to deliver authentic stories to increase tourism to Africa sustainably.
Making 2018 extra special, South Africa is this year celebrating the 100th birthday of Nelson Mandela. As part of the Nelson Mandela Centenary celebrations, SAT will promote 100 experiences, attractions and destinations around South Africa that have strong links to his life such as his home in Soweto and the Nelson Mandela Capture Site in KZN.
Traveltalk is attending INDABA 2018 as a guest of South African Tourism. The writer is staying at the Southern Sun Elangeni.