Interest in visiting Africa grows

20 April 2015

The World Travel Market Africa (WTM Africa) was fantastic this year and exceeded all expectations, according to Sugen Pillay, the exhibition’s commercial director.

Speaking on the sidelines of the conference, he said the international buyers at WTM Africa were impressive, and were “impressed with the exhibitors”.

WTM Africa was held in Cape Town from 15 to 17 March. More than 200 hosted buyers attended the event, which was in its second year. It had grown significantly in just a year, he added: in 2014, there were 3 000 trade visitors and 200 exhibitors; this year there were 550 exhibitors. Visitor numbers still had to be aggregated.

“We had the right type of international buyer and more than 20 African countries represented. This gave a real sense of what the continent had to offer,” he said. “Exhibitors and visitors were surprised by the number and type of buyers at the show.”

WTM Africa is to be followed by the Tourism Indaba in Durban, the entrenched annual exhibition that runs from 9 to 11 May this year. Indaba showcases Southern Africa’s best tourism products, and attracts international buyers and media from across the world.

Pillay saw no conflict between the two. Indaba focused on the inbound market, he explained.

“The industry has responded well to WTM Africa,” said Pillay. “We also focus on the outbound market, and we featured countries from outside Africa. This means they see Africa as an outbound market, and that there is a demand for tourists from Africa.”

Ebola

Addressing the knock on effect of issues such as Ebola on tourism to Africa, Pillay said tourist numbers had dropped since the Ebola outbreak. “There is a perception globally that affects the consumer. There is a need for education that Ebola is in a small region of an entire continent.”

Governments played a role in this education and the various tourism associations were working hard to get the message out. “Global issues like this do have an immediate effect on tourism, but it is not long term. And tourism is a long-term industry,” he added.

“The response to WTMAfrica shows that tourism is on a growth path in Africa.”

Figures released by Tourism Indaba earlier this month support Pillay’s comment. Indaba exhibitor numbers were up 30% and hosted buyers were up 100%.

South African Tourism, owners of the Indaba, said on 10 April that exhibitor applications were up 30% compared to 2014, and 90% of the tradeshow floor space had been reserved. Approved non-hosted buyer applications were on a par with 2014; and approved hosted buyer numbers were double that of 2014.

Outbound market

WTM Africa is marketed as Africa’s largest inbound and outbound business to business tourism show. It is a platform for buyers and exhibitors to do business. In addition, key issues and trends are presented and discussed via interactive networking sessions and panel discussions.

This year, these included the Responsible Tourism Speed Networking Session, the Asata Western Cape Chapter Meeting and Young Professional in Travel Networking Session, Rhino Art’s presentation highlighting rhino poaching, and Wendy van der Byl’s presentation on the SADC Univisa between Zambia, Zimbabwe, Namibia and Angola.

A highlight was the inaugural African Responsible Tourism Awards.

Figures are not yet available for WTM Africa this year, but at the inaugural event in 2014 about 4 000 industry professionals negotiated deals worth $314-million (R3.7- billion). This was expected to be exceeded this year, and 2014’s figures surpassed, said WTM Africa.

Freedom Park on show

Freedom Park, the memorial park in Pretoria, was among the exhibitors. “[The] World Travel Market 2015 audience [was] exposed to the Wall of Names, which is an element amongst many within Freedom Park wherein more than 80 000 names of the heroes and heroines who perished in various wars like the First World War, Second World War, Anglo Boer War, Wars of Resistance and Liberation War are inscribed,” said Freedom Park spokesperson Naomi Madima.

The market was a suitable platforms for Freedom Park to exhibit its iconic symbols because it hosted African and international exhibitors in the tourism industry. In keeping with the ethos of the park, the stand carried information dating back 3.6 billion years, as well as on various phases of the South African history from slavery, genocide, colonialism, industrialisation, liberation and democracy.

“Freedom Park is a national monument in a true sense in that it encompasses and embraces a history of all South Africans and acknowledges other international liberation heroes and heroines,” Madima said.

WTM Africa’s official charity this year was The Tourism Child Protection Code of Conduct. It, together with leading South African tourism industry stakeholders, used the event to signal their game-changing approach to protecting children from the worst forms of exploitation. The Code is an industry-driven, multi-stakeholder initiative with the mission to provide awareness, tools and support to the tourism industry in order to combat the sexual exploitation of children in contexts related to travel and tourism.

WTM Africa forms part of Africa Travel Week, which comprises of three co-located industry events, namely: International Luxury Travel Market Africa, International Business Travel Market and Word Travel Market Africa.

SAinfo reporter