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AAfrica is many countries, not one country.

The heart of the world, Africa is known for safaris, wild animals, and extreme poverty, Africa is the second largest continent with a total of 54 independent countries and a population of just above 1.2 billion. Home to the most genetically diverse people on Earth with a very high linguistic variety of over 3000 distinct ethnic groups and over 2000 languages, diversity is Africa’s super power. Although a decline in global commodity demand has since ushered in a slowdown, the second-most-populous continent is still bursting with phenomenal opportunity and remains a promising long-term growth market.

Traditionally, countries the world over have relied on their natural assets to sell their attractiveness, but culture and tourism is hugely forcing African countries to differentiate their regional identities to diversify the continent’s travel and tourism offering, making it even more attractive destination for visitors.

According to Simon Anholt’s 2004 Journal, Place Branding, the hexagon model for managing competitive identity of a country can be done using six natural channels of communication: Tourism, Brands, Policy, Investment, Culture and People.

Culture and tourism are linked because of their obvious synergies and their growth potential. One of the largest and fastest growing global tourism markets, cultural and creative industries are increasingly being used to promote destinations.

To support collaboration between the two sectors - culture and tourism - partnerships across government, industries, the public and private sector are key. We need to see more and more local communities come together to develop cultural products for tourism instead of competing directly with one another as they assist in defining the sense of place and atmosphere of the diverse markets.

Tourism has assumed a vital role in the development of destinations around the world. It’s relevance and impact for the continent was made with the first African Tourism Board (ATB) launched recently in Cape Town during World Travel Market Africa in South Africa on April 11, 2019. A partnership with private and public sector members, the African Tourism Board brings to African nations both internal and external subject matter experts, professional practitioners, industry resources and massive implementation capabilities; in a unified platform which can teach the leadership of the nations of Sub Saharan Africa how to successfully market their destinations and tourism assets, to the billions of ready, willing and able international tourist. The board is expected to be a "new and collaborative voice to African tourism".

South Africa’s tourism drive and commitment was made clear in President Cyril Ramaphosa’s 2018 State of the Nation address, for the ‘incredible opportunities’ Travel & Tourism brings to our beautiful country. In his 2019 address, President Ramaphosa again re-iterated the importance of the Tourism Industry for the economic growth of South Africa. It is for this reason we need to pay closer attention to how we brand ourselves at home and to the rest of the world.

Culture creates authenticity and distinctiveness in the global tourism market. Africa is not short of providing tourism experiences that connect people and visitors to local cultures.

Africa is a relatively young in our development as compared to our competitors. We are still formulating our identity and working hard to eradicate the legacy, perceptions and consequences of the past. Prioritising how we brand ourselves and how we build our positioning will assist to give sense to our mission, clarify our investment priorities and increase marketing of our continent.

Managing Competitive Identity of a country can be done using six ‘ natural ’ channels of communication: Tourism, Brands, Policy, Investment, Culture and People. These six points form a hexagon, which represents a model created by Anholt.

Close to half of the world is now traveling and tourism has played a major part in changing the world’s view of Africa, with every traveler taking a small part of their memorable experience back with them. More than ever before, and with the 4th Industrial Revolution upon us, African countries need to be innovative to force the world to pay attention. And culture and tourism will play a very important role in increasing our destination’s reputation.

The role that the South Africa National Convention Bureau (SANCB) plays in forming a positive reputation for South Africa and the broader continent as a business destination cannot be overstated. Headed up by Amanda Kotze-Nhlapo, Chief Convention Bureau Officer the SANCB is pivotal in the increased numbers of business events in South Africa. Following the success of Meetings Africa 2019, hosted on 26-28th February in Sandton, SANCB is looking ahead 2-4 May to Africa’s largest trade show, Africa’s Travel Indada which saw over 7000 delegates from 80 countries attend last year. Although the two travel and trade shows are different, at their core is their stimulation of business travel to Africa and promoting South Africa as vibrant business destination to the world.

As we look ahead to the future, the relevance of travel and tourism is only going to increase. Partnerships within the public and private sector, local and international, continue to be vital as the customer belonging to all stakeholders. Through collaboration, stakeholders can be instrumental in forming a positive reputation for South Africa as a leisure and business destination of choice. Once again showing the positive perception of doing business and attracting business travelers to South Africa.

Against the backdrop of the slowed growth of the African economy and the tourism sectors, it is for all locally and abroad to play their part in building a positive image of our continent as a travel destination of choice.

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