The 2023 Africa’s Travel Indaba in the vibrant and bustling city of Durban was a grand affair when it kicked off with the Business Opportunity Networking Day (BONDay) session, featuring a line-up of top-tier speakers who delivered riveting addresses.
Held at the iconic Inkosi Albert Luthuli International Convention Centre, this preeminent African leisure trade show started smoothly, setting the stage for an exciting and unforgettable 3-day event to be officially opened today by South Africa’s Minister of Tourism, Patricia De Lille.
South Africa’s Tourism Deputy Minister, Fish Mahlalela held the audience spellbound with his keynote speech, while the dynamic Vusi Thembekwayo captivated the crowd with his unparalleled charisma and wit. And if that wasn’t enough, the Acting Chief Executive Officer at South African Tourism, Nomasonto Ndlovu, took to the stage and enthralled everyone with her inspiring wisdom.
Delivering a keynote address, Mahlalela said South Africa’s tourism sector might soon “receive an added layer of security to improve its safety profile in the eyes of tourists.” This announcement comes amidst concerns about safety and security in South Africa, a significant issue for the country’s tourism industry in recent years.
Mahlalela emphasized the Government’s commitment to ensuring the safety and security of visitors to South Africa, stating that the proposed unit would be dedicated to protecting tourists while they travel in the country.
He also announced that the Government plans to spend almost R300-million in the next financial year on developing enterprises and transforming the tourism sector.
“This investment is expected to stimulate growth and development in the tourism sector and support small, medium, and micro enterprises (SMMEs),” he clarified.
Furthermore, the Department of Tourism’s flagship programme, dubbed the Tourism Incentive Programme, has “set aside almost R250-million to provide financial assistance to privately owned tourism enterprises, the Deputy Minister remarked.
The Government also focuses on developing rural tourism “as it has the potential to create job opportunities and support economic growth in rural communities,” he noted.
Additionally, he said Government is working to develop tourism infrastructure in rural areas, such as establishing tourism hubs, to support the sector’s growth in these areas.
He added: “We have set a target of spending 40% of the tourism budget on procuring goods and services from SMMEs, including women-owned businesses, to support their growth and development.”
According to Vusi Thembekwayo, the CEO of MyGrowthFund and a renowned speaker, it is time for Africa to focus on “the liberation of the mind.” He said, “We, Africans are just as capable, smart, educated, driven, and gifted as anyone else.
He emphasized that framing the narrative about the continent is the starting point for this liberation. In his view, Africa is like a giant multinational corporation with a unique syrup but no market. The continent has all the ingredients for success but lacks foresight and is bogged down by the narratives of others about its capabilities.
During the Inside Track session, Olayinka Bandele, Senior Economist at the United Nations European Commission for Africa, Southern Africa, emphasized the need for Africa to develop and implement effective tourism policies that look towards the future. Bandele urged employee training in the tourism ecosystem to be geared towards growth and to come from accredited training institutions.
During the same session, Rohit Talwar, CEO of Fast Future in the United Kingdom, stated that technology deployed in tourism must be fit for purpose and easy for consumers to use. Talwar suggested that while guests are queuing, they can be asked to complete a short survey while enjoying a complimentary coffee. Additionally, Talwar suggested we meet our guests upon arrival at the airport for an on-camera first impression or on their way out to enhance their experience even further.
Nomasonto Ndlovu, Acting Chief Executive Officer at South African Tourism, emphasized that despite being a long-haul destination, South Africa provides value for money and experiences for all travellers. Ndlovu stressed that, even though travelling has changed post-COVID-19, we cannot take our eyes off the ball, as the bread and butter of tourism hinges on the level of trust in the destination. She spoke highly of the South African grading system, which rates hospitality establishments and offers consumers “peace of mind” regarding their experience.
Amy Hills, Senior Associate of Capital Markets in JLL’s Hotels & Hospitality Group, echoed the sentiments of the changing needs of a new type of traveller. Hills outlined the attributes of this new tourist, stating that “they track destination carbon footprint and prioritize sustainability.” She revealed that tourism produces a staggering 80 per cent of carbon emissions, hence the need for an honest conversation about “sustainability.”