/ 23 April 2024

Africa’s Travel Indaba to boost local economy

Safrica Health Virus Tourism
The travel and tourism trade show that takes place in Durban next month is expected to generate at least R1,2 billion in revenue for local businesses. (Photo by RAJESH JANTILAL / AFP) (Photo by RAJESH JANTILAL/AFP via Getty Images)

Africa’s Travel Indaba is expected to inject at least R1.2 billion into South Africa’s economy when it hosts the continent’s tourism offerings in Durban next month.

The 13 to 16 May event is forecast to match or surpass last year’s forum which — according to a post event survey — generated R408.6 million in revenue directly to the local economy and a further R776.4 million in indirect or induced revenue, Deputy Tourism Minister Fish Mahlalela said.

“Additionally, the event contributed R75 million to national government taxes and, despite the subdued economic environment, we are confident that 2024 will match or surpass these figures,” Mahlalela added.

The trade show, which showcases Africa’s travel and leisure tourism products and services, sustained 2 296 jobs, including 1 374 direct jobs, 186 indirect ones and 735 induced jobs.

There are 990 confirmed exhibitors from 26 African countries, including newcomers Burkina Faso, Eritrea and Guinea, and more than 1,000 buyers representing 36 countries for next month’s event. Some 120 small, medium and micro enterprises (SMMEs) will be funded by the department to exhibit.

Mahlalela said last year’s survey showed that 99% of participants would probably recommend South Africa to others.

“Despite being a long-haul destination, they find the journey to South Africa worthwhile, with no shortage of immersive experiences, local interactions, and sophisticated luxury awaiting them upon arrival,” Mahlalela said, adding 99% of buyers surveyed stated that the exhibitors had met their expectations.

According to data released by the World Travel and Tourism Council (WTTC) last November, Africa’s travel and tourism sector has the potential to inject$168 billion into the continent’s economy and generate more than 18 million new jobs over the next decade. 

Mahlalela said it was important to unlock intracontinental travel and that the move to introduce visa free travel between South Africa and Kenya had resulted in a 99% increase to 42 403 arrivals from Kenya in January and December 2023 compared with the same period in 2022.

“We are starting to witness a similar growth trend with Ghana since South Africa and Ghana announced a visa-waiver scheme on 1 November 2023, allowing citizens to travel freely between them. The visa-waiver allows for travel for periods of up to 90 days within a calendar year, for purposes of business or tourism,” he said.

Strategic partnerships in the aviation and hospitality sectors also contributed to this growth. For example, an agreement between Kenya Airways and SAA established direct flights between Nairobi and major South African cities. In addition, several new routes have been launched including SAA’s Johannesburg to Sao Paulo flights and its Côte d’Ivoire route.

“South African Airways recently announced the resumption of direct operations to Australia, with the first flights departing for Perth in late April in a few days’ time on the 26 April. Airlink also announced a new route from Mbombela to Johannesburg and Mozambique, and this route is set to launch in July 2024,” Mahlalela said.

Tourism Business Council of South Africa chief executive Tshifhiwa Tshivhengwa said the event provides the industry with its “bread and butter”.

“Showcasing places that may not be well known to the world is critical because that is where the next tourism is going to come from. Over the past 30 years we have focused on bringing SMMEs into the platform but what we need to do is to write our own master blueprint for tourism,” he said.

“We need to cocreate what tourism will look like in the next 20 years because the consumer is changing and we need to look at getting young people to still continue coming to South Africa.”

Tourism to KwaZulu-Natal is recovering to pre-Covid-19 levels, said Siboniso Duma, the province’s MEC for economic development, tourism and environmental affairs.

“Over the past year 646 234 international visitors came to KZN and projections from tourism insights are that the province will welcome over 800 000 international visitors in the coming year which will surpass the 2019 arrivals,” he said.

“More tourists means more people spending money on accommodation, transport, restaurants and food, entertainment and sightseeing. This not only maintains the estimated 161 000 direct jobs in the KZN tourism sector, but leads to the expansion of tourism, creating more jobs for local people and opportunities for entrepreneurs to start their own tourism businesses.”

He said Africa’s Travel Indaba drew hundreds of visitors from the US, United Kingdom, Europe, India and Asia.

eThekwini municipality Economic Development and Planning Committee chairperson, Thembo Ntuli said the city would put all measures in place to ensure an incident free event, including a strong police presence at venues across Durban.