Danny Bryer Photo:Supplied
DURBAN - Africa's Travel Indaba 2018 will have more than 1000 exhibitors having their work enjoyed by attendees including over 1400 buyers and 68 countries.

This indaba is an important one for Africa's growing tourism sector. Investor confidence is at an all-time high across the continent, but Africa faces obstacles that are specific to the region too. 

Developing tourism in developing nations

The Indaba is a tourism trade B2B affair, but tourism in the African context is closely linked to infrastructural development within the individual countries that make up the continent. 

From the digital revolution that is taking place across Africa, where the rate of connectivity is faster than any other continent to the improvement of airports, road networks and developments in the banking and retail sector, the shift is happening very quickly. 

Further challenges include young democracies creating an environment favourable to cross-border trade since many countries have come out of  years of political unrest. 

Just like how Japan had rebuilt itself after World War Two, Rwanda's path to development is a remarkable success story and they have overcome huge challenges to become one the most active economies in East Africa. 

The question is, though, where does travel and tourism fit into this mix?

Travel growth can be broken into two parts: one is business travel, whether independently or as a part of conventions, meetings, conferences and events. 

The other part is leisure travel which is coming into its own as more middle-class Africans are realising the value in exploring. That is where the Indaba fits in. 

Across Africa, developing tourism is linked to trade developments since both feed into the creation of investor confidence. For example, Proteas Hotels by Marriott's African pipeline for hotels will see more than sixty properties come to life over the next few years across different African nations where there is a demand for a recognised brand value. 

At the indaba, attendees get access to unique networking opportunities and contacts from around the world, bringing a global market to South Africa's doorstep. 

It is not only about showcasing destinations, but the value-rich interactions that can lead to partnerships and trade agreements. These are the things that contribute to growth across the sector, rather than the success and growth of individual businesses. 

The Indaba will benefit Durban, the host city, and traffic through King Shaka International Airport will be dense; an upturn in occupancy rates at places of accommodation is a welcome boost, as is the extra spike in the tourism-related economy in retail and restaurants. 

Sustainability, tech take the floor 

At the centre of the Indaba will be the question of sustainability in tourism: if Africa is looking to grow tourism, sustainability plans must be put in place alongside development plans in order to give the sector long life.

Cape Town's landmark moment of an approaching drought before emergency measures were put in place demonstrate the need to ensure that all areas of  sustainable tourism are addressed in the development process across the country. This includes preserving natural resources to ensure that communities aren't negatively affected by tourism. 

It would be careless of African countries to ignore the need for this. Focusing mainly on profitability without investing in sustainability will adversely impact the opportunity for long-term growth. 

At Indaba 2018, tech in tourism is a main feature. As stated, Africa is enjoying its new connectedness and the attendant opportunities this provides, so Indaba is the ideal platform to introduce how technology, from apps to eco-friendly innovation can boost a response from the marketplace. 

Technology can lead to cost-effective marketing methods like social media platforms, perfect for a young travel market that needs to count the cents when it comes to marketing campaigns. 

A shortage of resources isn't all bad, it can lead to cutting-edge innovation as creative people come up with solutions for the African context, one that is quite different from the developed world, and one that gives Africa a special kind of fresh energy, one that appeals to visitors, Countries in Africa are like no other countries on the planet. 

This is the chance for places such as Botswana, Namibia, Zambia, Rwanda, Nigeria and others to join South Africa in saying "come and check out what’s new and exciting in our emerging markets, you won’t be disappointed".

Danny Bryer is Area Director, Sales, Marketing and Revenue Management, Protea Hotels by Marriott.

The views expressed here are not necessarily those of Independent Media.