African growth, heritage and culture, and new markets take centre stage at Indaba 2013

Cape Town Tourism has just returned from Indaba, South Africa’s biggest tourism trade show. The trade show attracted more than 13 000 visitors over four days and proved to be one of the most successful and digitally connected Indaba trade shows yet.

Says Mariette du Toit-Helmbold, CEO of Cape Town Tourism: “On the back of one of our most successful tourism peak seasons, I am happy to report that Indaba is increasingly transforming into a forum where not only business deals are concluded, but a platform for the tourism industry and government to come together to tackle issues that are stumbling blocks to growth in our tourism economy. Air access and airline routes, visa regulations and gearing ourselves for new markets stimulated rigorous debate at the Indaba Insider Sessions, a new platform created by South African Tourism this year. Doors have been opened for practical solutions and commitments from both government and private sector with a commitment made to extend this platform in the future to align itself with the vision for a pan-African tourism event.

"It is encouraging that tourism is no longer seen as a 'soft industry'. Its contribution of R76-billion to the economy, which places this sector alongside the likes of mining and agriculture, last year has positioned it as an industry at the heart of job creation and economic growth for South Africa.”

Heritage and culture, responsible tourism, technology, new markets and integrating the tourism products of Africa were topics highest on the agenda at Indaba 2013. 

Some of the main outputs from Indaba included:

Heritage and culture

South African Tourism and the National Department of Tourism collaborated by showcasing the totality of heritage and culture in South Africa with an impressive Heritage and Culture Pavilion at Indaba. The Pavilion showcased the Moja Heritage Collection and focused on South Africa's eight Unesco World Heritage sites. These are the Cradle of Humankind, Mapungubwe Cultural Landscape, Robben Island, Cape Floral Region, iSimangaliso Wetland Park, Vredefort Dome and the Richtersveld Cultural and Botanical Landscape.

South African Tourism research has revealed that visitors to South Africa are increasingly seeking a multi-layered heritage and culture offering. They want to experience our country’s people and places and the stories that connect us all. They come for the iconic tourism attractions but they also want to connect with the captivating stories, the history and the distinctive combination of people and place that makes South Africa an extraordinary and unique destination.

Says Du Toit-Helmbold: “South Africa’s strong leisure offering is complemented by a rich cultural, art, design and music offering – all of which combine to tell South Africa’s story and give the world better insight into our country and its people."

Cape Town’s World Design Capital presence at Indaba attracted much attention from the trade and media and a number of design-focused familiarisation trips are being planned for later this year. Like the 2010 World Cup, the positioning of Cape Town as World Design Capital will have a strong focus on international media by telling Cape Town’s journey as a transforming city. Cape Town Tourism will work closely with the City of Cape Town and the Cape Town Design Company to host international media in Cape Town in the run-up to and during our World Design Capital tenure.

Responsible tourism

At the heart of responsible tourism is a new generation of responsible travellers who are seeking real, meaningful and authentic experiences and are in tune with responsible lifestyle practices such as buying fair-trade products and experiences, and supporting community tourism.

Responsible tourism was high on the agenda with the Cities at Indaba Conference hosted by the City of Cape Town. Cape Town Tourism and Fair Trade Tourism reported an increase in demand for sustainable tourism products and experiential tourism. (Cities across the world are moving towards responsible tourism (RT) and Cape Town’s biggest industry users have taken innovative measures to sustain the destination.)

Uthando (Love) South Africa, a non-profit, non-governmental organisation with a certificate from Fair Trade in Tourism, won a R20 000 cash prize from the City of Cape Town and R15 000 marketing support from Cape Town Tourism during a responsible tourism activation at Indaba. Visitors to the Cape Town stand voted for what they believed to be the most deserving responsible tourism project. The aim of Uthando is to raise funds and other forms of assistance for community development projects in South Africa, and one of the ways that they do this is by offering community-led tours in townships. Uthando offers tailor-made, interactive cultural tours that visit projects that receive funding and other forms of assistance from Uthando and its benefactors.

James Fernie from Uthando was delighted with the win: “I wholeheartedly thank the many tourism partners who have so vigorously embraced the philosophy of responsible tourism, and who have made this wonderful award to Uthando possible. If every business and person could implement genuine fair trade and responsible business practices we would revolutionise our world and rise to the plethora of significant challenges facing humanity. The prize money will be hugely appreciated and very well spent by the selected projects. I look forward to sharing the developments of the projects over the next year.”

Expansion of African markets

Africa remains a pillar of the South African tourism economy and arrivals from the region have maintained solid growth of 8.5% over the last year.

Accessibly to African markets and the expansion of African tourism products were key topics during Indaba. As part of growth and expansion plans, Indaba will be increasing African participation at the tourism Indaba in 2014. Minister of Tourism Marthinus van Schalkwyk announced an investment into Indaba 2014 that will transform the tradeshow into a pan-African trade platform. He said: “We can do more to tangibly strengthen the African tourism industry through mutually beneficial ‘co-opetition’ – which brings out the best in all of us through co-operation and healthy competition on our continent.”

South African Tourism (SAT) will roll out a global hub strategy created to effectively deliver the destination marketing message, with a wider reach than ever before and a specific focus on Africa.

In the coming year, SAT will open fully fledged offices in Brazil, Angola, Kenya and Nigeria, whilst also expanding its marketing presence and partnerships with the trade in South Korea, Russia, Scandinavia, Shanghai in China, Uganda, Ghana and Tanzania.”

Air access in and from Africa was under discussion during the Indaba Insider Sessions facilitated by Du Toit-Helmbold. She remarked: “Africa is home to 12% of the world’s people, but it accounts for less than 1% of the global air service market. A figure of 20% of Africa’s tourism-related jobs are supported by visitors arriving by air, compared with only 4% in North America. Reliable, safe and competitively priced air services are essential to better integrating Africa with the global economy. Indaba is perfectly placed to bring leaders in tourism and government from across Africa together to design a more integrated African tourism environment.”


One of the innovations at Indaba this year, besides the information on the website, mobile app and social media coverage of the event, was technology specifically designed to allow easy connections – called "INDABA Connect".

INDABA Connect was a simple, but powerful platform that allows information, contact details, images and presentations to be easily shared among show delegates, in a very simple integrated way. By simply touching a delegate's or exhibitor's tag at an exhibitor's stand, presentation, event or activation, users had all the information attached to their online INDABA Connect profile, which made getting in touch easier and more productive than sharing business cards, brochures or USB sticks.

More than 150 000 connections were made electronically through Indaba Connect during Indaba and more than 30 000 documents were downloaded electronically. This saved more than 350 trees.

This, coupled with the very successful blogger campaign, #MeetSouthAfrica, coordinated by South African Tourism in the run-up and during Indaba, has positioned the event as a truly connected platform for trade, media and industry.

Domestic tourism

Domestic tourism tends to play a major role in the sustainability of most successful tourism destinations. Domestic travellers account for more than 70% of South Africa’s tourism volume, injecting R20-billion into the economy and substantially aiding the sustainment and creation of much-needed jobs.

A growing number of South Africans took leisure trips within the borders last year. Domestic tourism expenditure expanded to R101bn in 2011 from R69bn in 2010.

The National Department of Tourism and South African Tourism have set a target of increasing the number of domestic business and leisure travellers to 18-million by 2020. In addition to leisure travel, the aim was to increase domestic business tourism (mainly conferences and incentive travel) by 10% by 2015 and 15% by 2020 based on the 5.3% growth baseline in 2009. Research conducted by South African Tourism has demonstrated that business tourism generates more value than all other domestic categories in terms of average spend per trip. During 2011, a domestic business tourist spent about R2 500 on average per trip compared to about R1 500 per holiday trip.

South Africa’s new growth strategy for domestic tourism was developed in consultation with the provinces and industry role-players. The strategy is aimed at increasing domestic tourism revenue and volume, addressing seasonality and equitable geographic spread, and “entrenching a culture of tourism among South Africans”.

South African Tourism will launch a number of tourism products aimed at entry markets and would-be travellers who earn less than R5 000 a month. An audit of under-utilised state assets and properties that was recently commissioned would reveal areas that could be transformed into tourist attractions. Minister Van Schalkwyk also announced that a feasibility study for a budget chain resort is under way.

Chinese Tourism to SA

China has become South Africa’s fourth-largest source market for tourism, overtaking France in 2012. The number of Chinese tourists to South Africa increased by 63.5% between January and September 2012 to 96 747, compared with 59 197 for the same period in 2011. Even though Cape Town hasn’t seen the same growth from China during 2012, Cape Town Tourism predicts a significant increase in visitors from China and met with a number of Chinese trade and operators during Indaba.

UNWTO expects Chinese outbound tourism to increase from 70-million trips in 2011 to over 100-million by the end of this decade.

It was announced that Air China would commence flights to South Africa from August this year, adding to the existing SAA airlift capacity of three flights per week between the two nations.

The importance for the industry to understand the unique nature and needs of new markets like China before embarking on expensive marketing campaigns was raised, with insights and practical tips shared by South African Tourism. It is advisable for destinations and the industry to work in partnership with South African Tourism rather than in isolation when approaching new markets.

Some of the following interesting facts are emerging about the growing Chinese travel market:

  • Age groups predominantly: 25-34 years and 35-44 years
  • The most common length of stay was five days
  • Purpose of visit was mainly leisure (48.6%) and business (47.0%) in 2012 (in 2011 leisure was 43.8% and business was 54.5%, indicating an increase in leisure visitors)
  • The "repeat rate" of Chinese visitors increased from 2011 to 2012. In 2012 Chinese first-time visitors totalled 65.3% and second-time visitors 22.3%. In 2011 first-time visitors totalled 75.1% and second-time visitors 13.0% (i.e. an increase in repeat visitors year on year)
  • A large percentage visit on organised tours but there is an increase in individual travel by Chinese visitors
  • 70% of Chinese gather info from Internet, plan an itinerary before they travel. 32% respond to suggestions from others
  • Travel is most preferred leisure activity of 61% of wealthy Chinese, with average of 3,2 trips per annum
  • Most important factors for Chinese choosing destinations are brand reputation, location, transport, service, star rating, view, room size, Chinese-friendly food, price
  • 38% of Chinese travellers listed golf as their favourite sport activity
  • Coastal vacations, cruise tours, FIT theme tours like flowers, eco and adventure are favourite outbound experiences for Chinese
  • Chinese travellers can only work through approved destination partners, so industry must build relationships with right partners if they want to do business with Chinese market
  • China is icon- and celebrity-driven. The African penguin and Table Mountain as one of the New7Wonders of Nature are of huge significance
  • Most Chinese travellers prefer eight-day packages and non-stop flights when travelling long haul
  • Easy access for currency exchange, free Wi-Fi, special touches to make visitors feel welcome, language, cuisine like congee for breakfast are key to the Chinese market

The following factors contributed to the increase of Chinese travellers to South Africa:

  • The Chinese market is showing characteristics of a maturing travel market
  • They have grown to appreciate South Africa's natural beauty, infrastructure, entertainment, wines and shopping experiences
  • In 2009 South Africa was granted approved destination status by China
  • Two new SA visa application centres were opened in Beijing and Shanghai in 2011
  • In January 2012 SAA launched direct flights between Johannesburg and Beijing
  • BRICS relationship is encouraging more interaction between our countries
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