African tourism set for rebound after pandemic
As part of post COVID-19 transformation efforts in the tourism sector, the official opening of Africa’s Travel Indaba 2023 in Durban showcased exhibitors from 21 African countries, including 10 tourism boards and 123 small businesses sponsored by the Department of Tourism at R11.7 million.
In her keynote address at the trade show which featured more than 6,000 delegates, including 1,000 international buyers and 1,000 exhibitors showcasing 350 products, the South Africa’s Tourism Minister, Patricia de Lille who noted that the event offered an opportunity to honour the African people’s incredible ingenuity, fortitude, and magnificence, spoke on the importance of the industry, highlighting the need for collaboration and innovation to drive growth in the sector.
The minister said competition was essential for destination marketing and tourism. However, “it should be balanced with collaboration to avoid unhealthy practices and foster healthy competition based on quality and innovation.”
She noted that harmonising visa regimes and simplifying the application process is vital for unlocking Africa’s tourism potential.
According to de Lille, collaboration across the value chain is necessary to make it easier for visitors to move from one country to another within the continent.
She said: “South Africa is leading the way with visa waivers for several African countries and the rollout of an e-visa system to countries like Kenya, Nigeria, and Egypt. The goal is to expand the e-visa system to 20 more countries, making Africa a more attractive destination for Africans and international travellers. For South Africa, we have seen encouraging growth in our tourist arrival numbers between January and December 2022, where it reached nearly 5.8 million with over 4 million of those arrivals from African countries. This represents an overall inbound increase of 152.6 per cent for South Africa compared to January to December 2021.”
The minister who called for a special event to bridge the chasm of geography, language and culture amongst Africans further said: “We must stop bickering. Our people across the continent of Africa are our greatest asset. As Africans, we must do more to break down the stereotypes by promoting cultural exchanges, celebrating excellence and diversity through song and dance and sharing various cuisines that make Africa the magnet of international tourists. We have, collectively, weathered the COVID-19 hurricane, thus the future looks bright and should propel us to exceed our targets.”
Lille also encouraged local trade partners to participate in Sho’t Left Travel Week by providing discounted travel rates to locals in order to help boost domestic tourism efforts.
Mayor of Durban Councillor Mxolisi Kaunda, who noted that eThekwini municipality has identified meetings, conferences, workshops, exhibitions, and business travel as its area of focus for post-COVID-19 recovery, said recent statistics show that the sector in Durban will recover to 95 per cent of the 2019 job levels.
Addressing safety and security concerns, the Mayor announced that the city has implemented tough security measures to increase safety, including recruiting 400 metro police officers annually and partnering with community crime-fighting structures and business forums. “Major investment projects, such as the R600m Platinum Walk at Oceans Mall and the R8 billion Westown development, are expected to boost local tourism.”
Kaunda who also appealed for cooperation and partnership with the private sector said “the city is working closely with product owners to offer affordable prices to boost tourism. Major international events such as the World Table Tennis Championship Finals and the Hollywoodbets Durban July Experience, are expected to attract thousands of visitors and boost the sector’s recovery.”
Also, KwaZulu-Natal Premier Nomusa Dube-Ncube, underscored the importance of tourism in driving the province’s economic recovery, creating job opportunities, and narrowing the gap between the rich and poor.
She welcomed all visitors to KwaZulu-Natal and wished them a pleasant stay in the province. She received the greatest ululation when she announced that Durban would soon become the permanent home of Africa’s Travel Indaba 40 years after its launch.