by Tia

Africa’s Travel Indaba (ATI)  2024 surpassed expectations and showed the kind of recovery that KwaZulu-Natal has been looking for from the ambiance to the meetings, trade feedback and the numbers.

Figures released by ATI Bid Partners showed that targets had been met and exceeded. Compared to 2023 exhibitors increased by 23% to over 1200, hosted buyers have grown by 9% , trade meetings have risen  from 23 000 to over 24 000, the number of visitors rose to 9000 from 8000, the  number of African countries exhibiting has grown by 9% to 26 and insights from delegates is that business has been good.

Over the four days of ATI 2024 the direct spend impact amounted to over R226 million, the multiplier effect into other areas was over R330 million and the contribution to GDP was over R500 million.

Phindile Makwakwa, Tourism KwaZulu-Natal’s Chief Operating Officer said: “We are very excited to see the last day of ATI still busy and vibrant. If we are talking post Covid recovery we have our Indaba back; we have truly recovered.

“ATI is a prime event that provides us with an opportunity to not only showcase our province through pre and post tours, but it shows that we are a global player when it comes to business events, from the venue to the city, and the province and we look forward to a bigger and better ATI 2025.”

Talking about the value of ATI Ms. Makwakwa said it was an opportunity to showcase what Africa had to offer. It was  an opportunity for businesses to collaborate, expand and diversify with partners they would not ordinarily have thought of.

Tourism KZN was an example. “We have moved away from competing to collaborative competition which provides an opportunity for coastal provinces to package themselves differently. We have had remarkable meetings with Wesgrow, Cape Town’s tourism, trade and investment entity, and the Eastern Cape to look at how we get more out of cruise tourism by bringing more cruise liners and influencing their itineraries by providing a unified coastal itinerary.”

Recapping on TKZN’s business breakfast investment presentation Ms. Makwakwa said that the Club Med development on the north coast at Tinley Manor will bring big numbers, not only international but will grow the African market as well the domestic market.

“What will make a bigger impact is more international landings at King Shaka International Airport. These investments and products give us a compelling case as to why more airlines should be flying to SA and KZN in particular. Therefore, the value of ATI is the ability to network and talk to buyers, airlines, and potential collaboration partners. This is the one time each year that the global market is brought to us.”

For the government it is critical that small business benefit from platforms like ATI and operate in mainstream tourism and not on the periphery. TKZN through its two-year access to market incubation programme prepares small businesses to go to market  and then takes them globally. Indaba is an opportunity to bring the world to the SMMEs.

TKZN hosted 15 out of the 101 small businesses in the incubation programme, the Department of Tourism 120 SMMES, but every other stand hosted small businesses which would not ordinarily have had access to this market, which overall made a huge impact.

Feedback from exhibitors is that the Indaba had been excellent. One  international  exhibitor  with Pan-African influence and which has attended ATI for many years described this year’s Indaba is 100% back, possibly the busiest in the past 10 years.

Ntando Mbele, from the Harry Gwala Development Agency, described this year’s ATI as “better than good” and said that they had more than exceeded their targets. He said another invaluable experience had been exposing internal stakeholders to the broader tourism industry which gave them a far better perspective of what could be achieved going forward.

Mr. Nduduzo Khoza Acting Manager for Local Economic Development and Tourism at the Dr Nkosazana Dlamini Zuma municipality in the Southern Drakenberg said: “The purpose of being at ATI was to interact with the border tourism community and also to expose our stakeholders to what is happening in the broader tourism industry. It has been a very positive experience; all our targets have been met and this is going to be useful going forward.

“Also, in terms of the event, the most useful feature was the online diary which made it easy for us to connect with potential buyers. We will definitely be coming back next year and hoping to add more items to our stand.”

Dr Baxter, CEO of Babanango Game Reserve which was showcased at the Durban- KZN breakfast and which had a stand at the ICC described  ATI, as a melting pot of the African  tourism industry, and it had been a wonderful showcase for them.

Babanango’s strong cultural involvement had positioned it as a blueprint for other projects, said Baxter, who had been approached by a  number of people from different projects to discuss this as an ideal example of sustainable tourism that brought rural communities into the wildlife and broader tourism economy.  “We have also had a lot of interest from foreign buyers interested in something different. There are a lot of traditional safari experiences. Babanango goes beyond the Big5 experience. It sits in the cultural heartland of Zululand with its battlefield’s history. We have now discovered more than 100 archeological sites. We have had people interested in doing archeological tours. There have been all these add-ons which have made this really exciting for us to be here,” he said.

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