12 May 2011 by Chris Marais

Indaba Time - When Tourism Rules

The annual Tourism Indaba held in Durban is a networking festival of note. Most of the thousands of media, exhibitors and travel consultants only see each other here once a year - and there’s a lot of travelling to catch up on.

Everywhere you look, you see these expert communicators gathering, in conference halls, tiny coffee alcoves for one-on-ones, the massive display halls and after hours in just about every hotel lobby and restaurant in central Durban. The deals are hot, the parties are legendary.

Upstairs in the huge media centre, journalists are lined up behind banks of flashing laptops, sending their stories to the world. Stories, hopefully, about how well South African tourism is weathering the storm of a worldwide economic downturn. And where to shop for a really tall wooden giraffe.

Indaba 2011 is also not without its pageantry, in the form of giant puppets, Zulu dancers, jazz bands and, of course, the colourful stands promoting tourism regions, neighbouring countries, clusters of upmarket hotels and lodges and provinces.

All this deal-making and passage of information represents the millions of tiny turning cogs that power the largest, most planet-friendly industry on Earth: tourism. And southern Africa tells the best stories. I was listening to the latest exploits of my friend Colin Bristow, who runs a flying safari business in the region. What happened to him and his two clients on one single day in Africa is possibly the sum total of adventures experienced by an entire First World village in a whole year.

Vivid lives are being lived down here in the south. And for the rest of the world, Tourism Indaba Durban offers an insight into how they can tap into their own African Experience. As the SA Tourism slogan reads: Leave Ordinary Behind…

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