AFRICA TRAVEL INDABA 2023 LAUNCHES
Out & About was at the launch of the Africa Travel Indaba 2023
The recovery of tourism post Covid-19, crime and the safety of travelers to South Africa, ongoing issues surrounding VISA applications, the recovery of the airline industry and the affordability of travel were just some of the issues that emerged during an upbeat launch of the Africa Travel Indaba 2023 at Durban’s Inkosi Albert Luthuli International Convention Centre today.
Newly appointed Minister of Tourism, Patricia de Lille, said she was excited that the 2023 Africa Travel Indaba – which was launched under the positioning “Shaping Africa’s tomorrow, through connection today” – would be the first major event she would oversee in her new role.
She said she was confident that the three-day trade show, which will take place at the same venue between May 9 and May 11, would be a consciously Pan African event that would bring the world to Africa in an effort to positively influence the continent’s growth trajectory and post pandemic recovery.
She pointed out that the Indaba, as one of the premier annual tourism showcases, played a critical role in the advancement of the sector and in the country’s economic development.
De Lille emphasised that the tourism sector had a major role to play in the South African Economic Reconstruction and Recovery Plan announced by president Cyril Ramaphosa in October of 2020.
Referring to the Tourism Sector Recovery Plan approved by Cabinet in March 2021, she said that she was confident that it was “doable” if all stakeholders worked together.
This plan outlines a set of interventions to ignite the recovery of tourism and is anchored in three strategic themes – protecting and rejuvenating supply, re-igniting demand and strengthening enabling capability for long-term sustainability.
“We know our sector was hardest-hit by the COVID-19 and, in fact, by the time the pandemic reached our shores, the South African economy had already experienced two consecutive quarters of recession, so our sector was already reeling from this. Many businesses in this sector folded and many people lost their jobs. Now it is up to each and every one of us to play our part to re-ignite the African economy. We win when we all win,” she said.
De Lille noted that Africa’s Travel Indaba presented an opportunity to continue with started last year when stakeholders attended a pared down version of the Indaba for the first time after COVID-19. The event had been put on ice for two years.
Nevertheless, last year, the show contributed R102.6 million to Durban’s GDP.
Acting CEO for Tourism KZN, Nhlanhla Khumalo, whittled down the statistics still further.
During 2022, 5 500 people attended, of which 29% were international visitors, 48% were domestic overnight visitors and 23% were local residents. The total direct spend generated by Indaba was projected at R41.5 million with an economic impact (GDP) of R120.6 million
“This year, we anticipate that the Indaba will attract pre-Covid numbers which were around 8000 delegates. So, we are looking forward to a far greater economic impact and a wider geographic spread of this impact. The 2022 event also saw more than 13 804 confirmed business matchmaking meetings taking place between businesses and travel buyers, including our SMME’s,” he said.
According to the eThekwini municipality, the Africa Travel Indaba 2023 is expected to contribute over R130 million to the city’s GDP and create over 250 opportunities. Hotel occupancies are expected to average 90% which will be a major boost for the sector.
REPOSITIONING AFRICA’S TRAVEL INDABA
“Over the last two years, all of our efforts as a sector have been focused on ensuring the highest levels of recovery following the pandemic. We are all working very hard, and together, towards seeing our various economies return to pre-COVID 19 performance levels and exceeding these. Through collaboration and partnerships, we have made great strides,” de Lille said.
She pointed out that tourism performance numbers over the past year tracked what had been achieved.
Between January and December 2022, South Africa welcomed 5.7 million tourists – an increase of 152% when compared to the same period during the previous year. Of these, 4 million arrivals came from other African countries.
This, she suggested, indicated where the focus should be to tap this potential even further.
Because the impact of tourism growth on the economy needed to be both positive and sustainable, de Lille said she would be with key stakeholders to address key barriers such as recovery of airlift, visa delays and safety. Just three weeks into her role as tourism Minister, she said she had already engaged with Minister of Home Affairs, Dr Aaron Motsoaledi, regarding the issue of visas. She was joined SA Tourism and the SA Tourism Business Council.
During a question and answer session, she said that she would be updated on the notorious Tottenham Hotspur soccer sponsorship saga and was in ongoing consultation with various authorities regarding crime and tourist safety.
Returning to economics, another key to encouraging growth, according to de Lille, is creating market access for the country’s vast array of African leisure tourism products with particular emphasis on assisting Small, Medium and Micro Enterprises (SMMEs) to showcase their wares abroad.
“I am pleased to say that, through the work the Department of Tourism is doing, we are going to have 120 SMMEs at this year’s Africa’s Travel Indaba at the Hidden Gems pavilion. Through all our marketing efforts, we continue to promote villages, small towns and dorpies to ensure that we drive an all- inclusive tourism sector.”
RECOVERING AIR LIFT
Making trade and travel seamless across the African continent and the various other markets was an absolutely crucial component of economic growth, de Lille said.
“We need to have enough airlift to meet both domestic, regional and international demand. Encouragingly, when you look at the stats, airlift to and from South Africa has seen continuous recovery. Last year, we welcomed many direct flights from our key source markets into various parts of our country, such as the direct United Airlines flight from Cape Town to Newark in the United States of America. Tomorrow morning, Air China’s Flight 867 from Beijing-Shenzhen-Johannesburg is set to arrive at OR Tambo,” she continued.
In de Lille’s opinion, this flight will be a significant milestone as it is the first flight for group tours since the pandemic started in 2020.
China remains one of the most promising source markets for South Africa. Just before the pandemic, South Africa received nearly 100,000 visitors from China. She believes that it is possible to increase that number even further by 2030. Through reaching this target, more than R100billion in Chinese tourism spend could be generated over a five-year period, significantly reducing unemployment.
De Lille noted that research had also shown the significant potential for travel to Africa by tourists from the BRICS countries. This accounted for about 65% of arrivals in South Africa in 2018 and these markets could make an important contribution to the recovery of the sector.
As a result, de Lille said the Department of Tourism intended promoting tourism around the BRICS Summit in August and would do its utmost to gain from the position of South Africa as the BRICS chair country during 2023.
“Later this year, we are also expecting the LATAM flight from Brazil to OR Tambo International Airport which will also present a boost to the tourism sector and travel by Brazilian tourists to South Africa. The LATAM Airlines Group plans to re-launch a non-stop flight between São Paulo International Airport, Brazil, and OR Tambo International Airport, in July or August 2023,” she said.
Resumption of this route after more than three years following the outbreak of the Covid-19 pandemic would enable tourists to travel between Johannesburg and Brazil in nine hours on one of the three direct weekly flights. The Boeing 787-9 aircraft, which would fly this route, could accommodate 300 passengers.
De Lille said South Africa could therefore be a gateway to travel to Africa for visitors from BRICS countries. In light of this, she would convene a SADC ministerial dialogue at the Travel Indaba to explore opportunities for the SADC countries to work together.
Ending her part in the Indaba launch, de Lille said that she was encouraged by the energy and the commitment levels that she had encountered so far.
“We all love this beautiful country. With all its problems, it is still the most beautiful country in the world. I want to encourage you to continue to promote our country as a destination of choice. As government and the Department of Tourism, where we can play a role, we will certainly do so,” she concluded.