Editor's Note

Explore South Africa – April 2013

Simon Capstick-Dale
Simon Capstick-Dale

Despite South Africa’s tourism figures taking a small knock when the worldwide economic recession hit around 2008, the Tourism Business Index shows a return to normal trading levels, with an overall positive outlook for the rest of 2013.

Added to this, the index identified the domestic business traveller as the market with potential for the most growth within our accommodation sector – an encouraging statistic for South Africa’s MICE (meetings, incentives, conferences and exhibitions) industry.

Another encouraging statistic released by the World Travel Organisation (WTO) predicts that international arrivals to Africa will more than double for both business and leisure travel – from 50 million in 2011 to 134 million people in 2030.

On the flip side, increasingly competitive foreign markets has meant the demand for our products has taken strain and one of our biggest challenges remains keeping costs to a minimum while still offering superior tourism products and services. Let’s hope we have both the perseverance and innovation to weather the storm.

This year, Meetings Africa was attended by a total of 2 884 delegates and nearly 9 000 meetings were held over the two-day event.

Approximately 300 international, regional and local buyers were in attendance – a remarkable 30% increase from last year.

In his address at the event, minister of tourism Marthinus van Schalkwyk urged the regional events industry to partner together in terms of capability, infrastructure, knowledge sharing and idea pooling, to boost Africa’s MICE market share as a whole – not just for South Africa, which currently dominates this market.

With humble beginnings in 1984 at the Sandton Sun Hotel, the Tourism Indaba has grown in size and calibre to become Africa’s most celebrated travel show. Despite the fact that there is still much cohesion to be established between public and private sectors, and heads still need to be put together to solve some pressing problems within the industry, it’s onward and upward for South African tourism. The fact that we’re bucking the downward trend amid challenging times is grounds for much optimism!

Tailor-made ... experiential ... these industry buzzwords tell us that today’s tourist is all about choice and control. Among consumers there’s been a radical shift from bigger and better to honest and humble. Tourists want authentic experiences that allow them to immerse themselves in their destination. In this tough economic climate, travel is no longer taken for granted and those who can afford the luxury are inclined to spend a little more to make their holiday special and meaningful.

Fortunately, South Africa’s immense natural and cultural diversity means that we provide an exceptionally ‘experience-rich’ offering and we may need only learn a little about how best to package and market Destination South Africa before we considerably bolster our tourism figures.

Part and parcel of this gravitation toward genuine tourism comes the traveller’s desire to interact with indigenous people as much as their destinations.

Explore South Africa’s merry jaunt around KwaZulu-Natal’s Midlands Meander and our trip up the Greater Mapugubwe Heritage Route in Limpopo in this special issue provide the sort of authentic visitor experience for which tourists are yearning.

I wish you all a successful 2013 Tourism Indaba!

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