Bid to keep Indaba alive

2014-05-12 00:00

MUNICIPAL and provincial officials are lobbying hard for the tourism Indaba — which has been held in Durban for 25 years — to remain in the city.

The Indaba, billed as Africa’s biggest tourism event, is owned by Tourism South Africa.

Durban has hosted it on a five-year tender basis from TourismSouth Africa, and negotiations are under way as the next tender period ends next year. The Indaba 2014, which started on Friday, ends today.

In 2012, the Indaba had over 1 800 exhibitors, and this year, the figure is only a little over 1 200.

Speaking on condition of anonyminity, an exhibitor complained the Indaba has been getting “smaller and smaller”, and most of the people “walking the aisles” of the exhibition seemed to only be other exhibitors. Tourism KZN had predicted that some 10 000 delegates would visit the show this year — some 13 000 visited in 2012.

The decline in exhibitor numbers at the Indaba is in spite of the number of international arrivals to SA increasing by 300% in the past two decades.

The exhibitors’ views are long-standing. Durban Chamber of Commerce and Industry chief executive officer Andrew Layman said their tourism committee had mentioned the impact on the Indaba of a rival tourism exhibition in Cape Town, and there had been concerns for some time that Indaba had “lost some of its identity”, and “that it needs some kind of rejuvenation”.

A source in the provincial government said they and the city want the five-year tender period abolished so that the Indaba can become a permanent feature in the city, similar to major international tourism events in other countries.

They argue that they are unable to provide more investment on infrastructure such as additional exhibition space, until they have certainty about hosting the event over the long term.

Deputy city mayor Nomvuso Shabalala said on Saturday “we hope it won’t be the last time” that the city hosts Indaba, and in an appeal to exhibitors, she said “we have never disappointed you.”

Department of Economic Affairs and Tourism MEC Michael Mabuyakhulu said Durban and the province had invested R500 million on Indaba over 25 years, “continuity” was an important aspect in being able to properly hold such an event, and “we will look forward to that partnership (with Indaba) for a long time to come.”

He said tourism is a crucial sector in KwaZulu-Natal - some 150 000 people are employed in the tourism sector - and greater innovation in tourism packages is required to move the industry forward.

He said there is a proposal to establish an African investment conference at the next Indaba.

Tourism KZN chief executive officer Ndabo Khoza said the tourism sector did not exert its influence enough when it came to aviation policies in Africa and issues such as international air fares need to be addressed because, for example, a 24-hour flight from London to Syndey costs 300 pounds, while a 12 hour flight to Johannesburg costs 600 pounds.

The Indaba 2014 website said South African Tourism is in the process of “re-inventing” Indaba to be representative of the continent, and changes will be introduced in the 2015 event.

“Come 2015, Indaba will have moved away from the idea that the bigger and more opulent one’s stand is, the more important and valuable it is. We are now single-minded about configuring a highly efficient trading environment,” the website said.

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