12 May 2014

INDABA 2014: It's a wrap

Increased interest from international media, a pan-African offering and a more concerted focus on meetings were some of the key features of INDABA 2014, South African Tourism’s CEO Thulani Nzima told journalists at a final media conference for Africa’s biggest travel trade show.

South African Tourism CEO Thulani Nzima

Nzima said highlights this year included the bloggers' conference, the TECHzone – which was 'abuzz with constructive engagement' – the Premium Lounge, speed marketing, the Global Media Face Off and the INDABA Insider Talks.

He added that the use of the 'pokens', which allow delegates to exchange information electronically, had probably saved a 'mini forest' by cutting down on paper.

Also, this year, stricter criteria were applied in the recruitment of buyers and exhibitors to ensure relevance, and the range of products had been compelling. He said there had also been an increased effort in recruiting hosted buyers to help South African Tourism direct its programmes.

He said he was confident the show had kept everyone so busy that they had had just enough time to drink water or grab a cup of coffee.

Nzima acknowledged there was increased competition in the travel show industry, but added that the jury was still out as to whether the market could accommodate them all.

The turnstile figure for INDABA 2014 was 15% down on the year before, but this did not allow for the fact that the show had been cut back from four to three days.

Among the issues raised by media was whether there should be a more pan-African food offering next year, public viewing areas for the opening ceremony and better marketing of INDABA in Durban itself.

eThekwini CEO Phillip Sithole said that there would definitely be a post-INDABA assessment of several issues, while Julie-May Ellingson of Durban’s International Convetion Centre said that they would be keen to invite chefs from across the continent to participate in future.

SAT CEO Thulani Nzima at the final media press conference on Monday. Photo: South African Tourism SAT CEO Thulani Nzima at the final media press conference on Monday. Photo: South African Tourism

South African Airways breakfast

The South African Airways' CEOs' breakfast on Day Three of INDABA 2014 included presentations by SA Express CEO Inati Ntshanga, South African Tourism CEO Thulani Nzima, SAA CEO Monwabisi Kalawe and Mango CEO Nico Bezuidenhout.

Focal points emerging from the presentations included a need to develop marketing partnerships such as the one between SAA and South African Tourism, providing more seamless connections, replacing unprofitable routes with more lucrative alternatives, addressing the need for price-sensitive airline options, increasing the SAA network through code-share agreements and using more fuel-efficient aircraft.

Speed marketing

The popular speed-marketing session featured again on Day Three, with a focus this time on action adventure. True to form, there was a full house of enthusiastic support for the 18 experiences on show, from ballooning, through to horse trails, dune boarding, ziplining, shark encounters and elephant interactions. We went from the highest dunes in the Eastern Cape, across the Kalahari of the Northern Cape and to the heights of the Sani Pass through the eyes of the various trade presenters.

Dirk Pienaar of the Red Kalahari Dune Route at Day Three's speed-marketing session. Photo: South African Tourism Dirk Pienaar of the Red Kalahari Dune Route at Day Three's speed-marketing session. Photo: South African Tourism

Focus on energy efficiency

Day Three also saw talks on energy efficiency and the hospitality industry.

Eskom's Colin Openshaw gave some insights into Eskom's energy-efficient solutions. There's a push in the travel trade industry currently to use technology to save energy.


The final TechTalk was by Aaron Nissen (@anissen) from Think! Social Media.

His main focus was on how stories build brands. He stressed the point that a winning combination for destination marketing is selecting people who are influencers of the communities/markets you are targeting, letting them tell authentic stories about you and allowing them to share the content in order to inspire other people. Anybody can become your brand ambassador if they are passionate about your product or offering. It is also important to stop broadcasting messages and start listening to your consumers a lot more. 

Watch the video below for impressions of INDABA 2014:

Below are some highlights of the first two days...

Day One

INDABA 2014 kicked off with a rousing opening ceremony that celebrated the pan-African nature of Africa's oldest tourism conference, which is not only the largest in Africa, but the third-largest event of its kind in the world.

South African Tourism Minister Marthinus van Schalkwyk highlighted the presence of 24 African countries at the exhibition and also asked tourism ministers representing African countries such as Angola, Benin and Burundi to stand up and introduce themselves to the audience. 

In a colourful ceremony of song, dance and poetry, the theme of 20 years of democracy since the 1994 election in South Africa was the focal point for all the speakers, including South African Tourism CEO Thulani Nzima, eThekwini mayor James Nxumalo and Tourism MEC for KwaZulu-Natal, Mike Mabuyakhulu.

The night before, 14 #MeetSouthAfrica bloggers were guests of honour at the #MeetSouth Africa bloggers’ cocktail event held at the KZNSA Gallery in Bulwer Road, Durban. These are some of the blogger impressions of their whirlwind trip through South Africa:

Apart from the well-received TechTalks and the popular speed-marketing sessions, Van Schalkwyk spent an hour walking through the stands in the morning, meeting exhibitors and chatting to them about their businesses.

Day Two

The second day of INDABA 2014 started with a high-profile debate, the Global Media Face Off moderated by CNN presenter Richard Quest, who put the four panellists, South African Tourism CEO Thulani Nzima, brand specialist and Brand South Africa Board member Thebe Ikalafeng, economist Mike Schussler and TripAdvisor's Helen Egan, through their paces.

Quest didn’t pull any punches in the wide-ranging discussion that covered issues of security, politics, morality, value for money and perception in the African travel market.

Hot topics included the lack of gay rights in Uganda and whether this should impact on travel decisions and the need for more open skies and speedier visa applications in Africa.

With INDABA in full swing, TripAdvisor came out with some interesting statistics about travellers to South Africa, showing that Limpopo, the Eastern Cape and Cape Town were top of the list for destinations in the country.

These results confirmed another study that showed that South Africa is on the wishlist for travellers from Germany, Switzerland, Austria and France, with increasing interest from Chinese and German-speaking European markets.

The TechTalks once again proved popular. Charlie Ballard, research director for TripAdvisor, spoke about online trends in South Africa and the rest of Africa. He spoke of the big shift to using mobile devices to research travel Africa in 2013, and how there is an increase in TripAdvisor reviews submitted from South Africa every year.

Chris Whitley from the BBC focused on the value of good content and the massive rise in the use of mobile devices. He emphasised the importance of knowing what you want to communicate and how you want to communicate it; it’s all about the story you want to tell.