|Marthinus van Schalkwyk, minister of tourism for South Africa, speaks at INDABA 2014|
DURBAN, South Africa -- The pounding of drums from local musicians, the strong, powerful voice of a local poet and a pop music performance that inspired tourism delegates to get out their seats and boogie were just a few elements that made for a dynamic opening to INDABA 2014.
INDABA, a three-day trade event, is one of the largest tourism marketing events in Africa; it showcases Southern Africa’s tourism products, and attracts international buyers and media from across the world. INDABA, which is expected to draw more than 13,000 delegates to Durban this year, is owned by South African Tourism.
For two years in a row, INDABA has won the award for Africa’s best travel and tourism show. This award was presented by the Association of World Travel Awards.
But perhaps nothing was more impressive than the keynote speech by Marthinus van Schalkwyk, minister of tourism for South Africa, that chronicled the progress his country has made in tourism during the last two decades, since 2014 marks the country's 20th year of democracy.
In 1994, South Africa received a very modest 3.6 million overall arrivals, while that number nearly tripled over the last 20 years, says van Schalkwyk. According to the minister, South Africa saw a nearly 300 percent increase in arrivals during that time as 15 million people visited the country in 2013, 9.6 million of which were tourists.
It was the development of a host of internationally renowned attractions that have come on board in the last 20 years that has made South Africa the envy of the global tourism industry.
"Twenty years ago, there was no Freedom Park, no Soccer City Stadium, no (Durban International Convention Centre), no Meetings Africa," says van Schalkwyk. "But since 1994, South Africa has been transformed."
Today, tourism accounts for 610,000 employees, or 46 percent of the country's total employment. And from 2012 to 2013, the country saw an 11 percent increase in accommodation revenue. This year's INDABA includes tourism representatives from 23 African countries and marks the 26th year the show has been hosted in Durban.
"Our tourism sector can only excel," says van Schalkwyk. "So, here's to looking at the next 20 years of our journey together."
Keep visiting www.travelagentcentral.com for more updates from our coverage of INDABA 2014, which runs through May 12.