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JJust over 52 exhibitors from South Africa will join the more than 10 000 exhibitors from some 187 countries in what is regarded as the foremost platform for conducting tourism-related business. This is the biggest ever SA representation attending the trade show, up from 42 who attended last year. These exhibitors meet with about 120 000 trade visitors and 60 000 private visitors in 26 exhibition halls. Among those attending are 1 000 leading travel buyers from around the world.

It is widely seen as a trade show where real business is conducted and where "supply meets demand", as it is timed to work within the trade buying cycle ahead of the new tourism year.

At ITB Berlin, the Minister and the South African Tourism CEO will be making a strong case to members of the global travel trade and international media to further position South Africa as a preferred leisure and business events destination, in order to contribute in the acceleration of inclusive growth of the tourism economy.  Today they participated at a panel discussion talking about South Africa's growth strategy, South Africa's status as trend destination 2017 and the role Germany plays for the South African tourism sector. They will also receive 200 members of the Germany trade and media at a networking event giving the exhibitors direct access to the trade thus amplifying value for the SA business attending the trade show.

This is in line with South African Tourism's goal of attracting five million additional tourists (both domestic and international) within the next five years, and the National Department of Tourism's efforts to position the country as one of the world's top 20 destinations by 2020 in terms of the National Tourism Sector Strategy.

"Tourism touches the lives of all South Africans. Given its importance to our economy, we must continue to nurture the sector and drive increasingly impactful and collaborative strategies and programmers for sustained, inclusive growth. Our participation at ITB SA is very important to us as we are here to share SA marketing messages proactively with German trade."

"In 2016 we attracted more than ten million tourists who came to South Africa from various parts of the world, which is a 13% surge when compared to tourist arrivals in 2015 and well above the global average of 3.9%. Of these, 311 000 were Germans, making Germany our second-largest European source market after the United Kingdom," says Mr. Sisa Ntshona.

"The number of German tourists coming to South Africa grew at an impressive rate of 21.5% and for this reason we are planning to train even more local tour guides to add to the 400-plus who already speak German in order for us to better cater for German tourists."

"South Africa is a beautiful country with a variety of experiences on offer and so we are also increasing our efforts to market a broader platter of our country's attractions to the adventurous German who is also an international traveller, intrigued by authentic, inspiring experiences that broaden their cultural horizons," adds Ntshona.

"We have a wealth of fascinating hidden tourism gems just waiting to be explored, such as African storytelling sessions in Soweto and a multicultural art route - featuring drumming, marimbas, dance and a traditional homestay - in Limpopo province.

"While at ITB we will be motivating members of the tourism trade to package such offerings to meet the needs of travellers searching for immersive, life-enriching experiences that go beyond the usual attractions. This, we believe, is what the new generation of digitally-connected and socially aware millennial traveller in particular is looking for, in addition to going on safari and experiencing our amazing beaches and natural bounty."

Ntshona concludes that the German tourism industry had rewarded South African Tourism's outstanding service to travel agencies with a silver award at its Globus Travel Awards in January, and that South Africa looks forward to further building on this strong relationship with the international travel trade at ITB.

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