SA tourism: success depends on how we tell our stories

Cape Town - It is time for the South African and African tourism industry to look at telling its "stories" differently to an international audience, Amanda Kotze-Nhlapo, chief Convention Bureau officer of SA Tourism, told Fin24 on Wednesday.

She sees events like the upcoming Africa's Travel Indaba taking place from May 7 to 10 in Durban as a platform that can be used for this purpose, because it brings people together to see how the continent can get a bigger share of the international tourism pie. It is estimated that Africa currently only gets about 5% of the international travel in the world.

"Why is that if we have so much to offer? What can we do to come together to tell a better story so that we can be more attractive as a destination? When tourists come to the cradle of human kind it is a life-changing experience for them. Africa will move them with the emotional connectivity we have," said Kotze-Nhlapo.

She emphasised that President Cyril Ramaphosa has prioritised the tourism industry as one offering opportunities for the business sector.

"It is about how we tell our stories. For instance, yes, there is a water problem in Cape Town, but everyone is busy finding solutions. It is about how we manage our challenges and bring about the best innovative solutions," she said.

"For me it is about how we tell the story of Africa and we want to use Africa's Travel Indaba to grow our tourism businesses and grow the industry on the continent."

She said one of the important aspects of the convention industry is that by bidding for meetings one can fill the pipeline. An example would be attracting a major annual trade show to the country. Events tourism, furthermore, has a direct economic impact as well as an indirect one - for instance on other businesses in the transport, creative, cultural and property sectors.

In her view, the success of SA and Africa's tourism industry has always been in its collaborative approach. Transformation, leadership development and the youth are other important aspects for the industry on the continent.

Identifying "hidden gems" among small tourism business start-ups with new and exciting offerings can, in her view, also help to position Africa and SA's tourism industry for more growth.

"The more businesses we can grow sustainably, the more our industry can contribute to the economy," she said.

"Storytelling is an opportunity to sell our tourism business. Africa is so much about stories - even our own South African story."

She acknowledged that security remains an important aspect to focus on - not only in SA and Africa, but in the world.

"As we embark on the goal of having 5 million more tourists in the next 5 years, I see it as a business opportunity. People are looking for new and exciting stuff to do as they have the world to choose from," said Kotze-Nhlapo.

"It is about how we package it and the Indaba is a good place to come and do that. There will be more than 1 000 quality exhibitors from more than 20 African countries and more than 1 200 buyers. That is when the magic happens of a business event."

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