Top Africa Travel News From Indaba 2018

(Photo by Melissa Klurman)

With the theme, “Africa’s Stories” as its focus, the opening ceremony for this year’s Indaba travel trade show in Durban highlighted a passion for Africa, and a rebranding of the event from simply “Indaba” to “Africa’s Travel Indaba.” The new name is a call to action to focus on the success of the continent as a whole and to, “Go out and tell Africa’s stories to the world,” said Derek Hanekom, South Africa’s newly reinstated National Minister of Tourism, as he officially launched the trade show, now in its 27th year on the sunny Indian Ocean shores of Durban. With more than 80 countries in attendance and 1,700 delegates, the show’s attendance was up nearly 4 percent from the previous year. And like Indaba, U.S. tourism numbers to South Africa are also on the rise, with a 7.5 percent growth in the past year, according to Bangu Masisi, president of South African Tourism’s Americas Hub.

100 Years of Mandela

July 18, 2018, would have been Nelson Mandela’s 100th birthday, and South Africa’s beloved president’s centenary is the focus of not only this year’s Indaba, but also of South African Tourism throughout 2018. As part of the celebration, Madiba’s Journey App has been relaunched to include 100 specially selected experiences across South Africa’s nine provinces that focus on the great statesman’s life and legacy (Madiba is Mandela’s tribal name). Agents should encourage clients to download the free interactive tool that provides insights and information for everything from the Capture Site in KwaZulu Natal, the site of a new museum, to iconic Robben Island in Cape Town, where Mandela spent 27 years in prison. 

In recognition of Mandela’s legacy of inclusion, which extends to developing tourism and welcoming new visitors to the Rainbow Nation, South African Tourism North America brought a special delegation comprised of 70 North American travel agents and specialists and 30 media to Indaba for a special “100 for 100” celebration in honor of the centenary. 

Travel Agent was excited to be one of the special group of 100. Many in the group were visiting Africa for the first time, including Ann Petronio of Annie’s Escapes in Rhode Island, who was standing with us for the buzz-generating group photo opp. In addition to looking forward to meeting exhibitors from all around Africa at Indaba, Petronio was especially excited to be going on a South African safari fam after the conference to Kapama Private Game Reserve. “I have clients going there this summer for their honeymoon,” she said, “and seeing it in person” will be especially informative.

For clients who are interested in a Nelson Mandela-inspired trip, South African Airways Vacations announced a special 10-day Celebrating Mandela’s 100th itinerary that gives visitors a first-hand, cultural experience following his footsteps as founding father of the new South Africa.

New Air Routes

Another Indaba highlight was the announcement of the first nonstop route from Europe to Durban. The new British Airways flight launches October 29 and will offer three departures a week from London’s Heathrow Airport to bring travelers to the bustling sea port of Durban.

African travel specialist Nicole Fernandez of A2A Safaris in New York predicted that new air routes will open African travel to a bigger audience of travelers in the coming year. She’s noted that Kenya Airways’ new daily non-stop from Nairobi to New York’s JFK, the airline’s first U.S. route, will begin October 28, 2018, and “will definitely be a game changer for Eastern Africa safaris.” She also noted that linking countries by new routes will open up new opportunities, and also make flying to Africa as easy as possible.

Cape Town is Open for Business

Travel Agent was part of a special sit down meeting with National Minister of Tourism Derek Hanekom, and we asked about the recent Cape Town drought. The minister said he wants agents to know, “It’s absolutely fine to visit Cape Town,” adding that visitors will have a great time and that Cape Town’s tourist highlights are not affected at all. “We’ve put in place measures to conserve water and work towards the future, but no major city has run out of water,” and Cape Town will not be the first, he stated. Bookings, he noted, were definitely down in the face of news reports of “Day Zero” — but Hanekom noted that it was actually raining in Cape Town while Indaba was taking place in Durban, and that the city is definitely looking forward to welcoming guests.

Lorenzo Giani of Tsogo Sun properties noted in a separate conversation that the hotel chain’s Cape Town properties were pursuing forward thinking conservation efforts, including implementing their own desalination plants so they’re not dependent on city water. 

Three New Focuses for South Africa in the United States

How to get more Americans to visit South Africa? According to Sthembiso Dlamini, COO of South African Tourism, they’ll be focusing on three major development points for 2018. The first is the African American travel segment. Agent Jessie Denis of Travel by Design in New York, part of the U.S. “100” delegation, agrees that this is an important and under tapped market. Denis calls it “The Black Travel Movement” and says that she’s working on several large group itineraries with the help of South Africa Tourism.

Another focus this year is the LGBT market. Ntshona emphasized that South Africa is known “for its diversity as the Rainbow Nation and its welcoming attitude,” something that will be reflected in new programs for LGBT travelers.

The final focus is on Groups and Incentive travel, to highlight South Africa’s great business facilities, with Dlamini emphasizing, “South Africa has everything for everyone.” 

Safari Highlights

We were excited to see a range of newly launched properties as well as redesigned and reimagined safari offerings from across Africa on the floor at Indaba this year. Among the highlights: Mala Mala Game Reserve, in the largest private concession in South Africa’s Kruger National Park, has completely rebuilt its Sable Camp and classic Mala Mala properties with contemporary African flair that add a true sense of place, and bush luxury, to an already prime Big 5 game experience. 

Robin Pope Safaris, a leader in unique experiences in Southern Africa, including walking and boating safaris, has added two new exclusive properties in Malawi, making it possible to create an itinerary that extends from the African bush in Zambia, to Victoria Falls, to Lake Malawi for snorkeling and scuba diving. For luxury right in the sprays of the Falls, the newly rebranded The Royal Livingstone by Anantara is close enough to walk to the “Smoke That Thunders,” and has a new spa, river and wildlife experiences. 

Natural Selection Safaris is launching two new camps in Nambia—Hoanib Valley Camp and Shipwreck Lodge---that will be opening this spring and summer. Namibia was also one of the top trends at this year’s show, honing in on the growing desire of travelers looking for new and unique travel opportunities.  Other trends in safaris are multigenerational and family travel, with many camps, including Natural Selection’s Jacks Camp in Botswana, adding multi-room family lodging and accommodating children of all ages with rangers that focus on kids’ interests. 

Related Stories

Cape Town Could Shut Off Water Supply in April

Stats: Memorial Day Travel to Hit 12-Year High

IHG Becomes Latest Big Hotel Company to Cut Group Commissions

Virtuoso: Gen Z to Drive Luxury Family Travel This Summer