The City of Durban looks forward each year to the gathering of key decision makers and influencers in the tourism industry.

Tourism has become a vital part of our regional economy and we are prioritising a lot of investment and resources into tourism, and especially into building a strong global travel brand and identity for our city.

Durban is being discovered by global travellers who are looking for new and different cultural experiences, combined with the excitement of nature and wildlife.

We trust that through hosting Indaba 2017, the City will benefit from the intense marketing and business growth in the tourism sector.

Indaba is Africa’s top tourism trade show. The show, which has been running for more than 35 years, attracts more than 7 000 delegates representing the top tourism products and experiences from all over Africa, as well as the world’s leading travel buyers and travel and tourism media.

Indaba’s focus on African destinations gives visitors a chance to become acquainted with exciting product developments throughout the continent.

Industry players from more than 17 African countries are taking part, including Angola, Botswana, the DRC, Lesotho, Madagascar, Malawi, Mauritius, Mozambique, Namibia, Réunion, Seychelles, Senegal, South Africa, Swaziland, Tanzania, Zambia and Zimbabwe.
This prestigious trade show is important as it increases economic spin-offs for the city, increases job creation, and mobilises international, regional and domestic visitors to our city. The city also hosts international media, buyers and other visitors.

Hosted events may take place to showcase Durban in the form of tours to our townships, eating our unique cuisines at our township restaurants or other iconic internationally acclaimed restaurants and tourist attractions in Durban.
As the City, we expect this year’s Tourism Indaba to make a contribution of no less than R105 million into our economy, with a direct spend of more than R29 million. This is expected to create and sustain more than 220 jobs in the tourism and hospitality sector, while our hotel occupancy rates are on a constant rise.
Tourism plays a crucial role in our economy – in 2016, the total contribution of travel and tourism to the gross domestic product (GDP) of South Africa was R402bn (9.3% of GDP) and this is expected to grow by 2.5% to R412.2bn (9.4% of GDP) in 2017.

These figures highlight the importance of tourism to the economy and the crucial contribution the sector is making towards job creation.

In pursuit of an inclusive economic growth mantra, we view this sector as one of the key sectors for our city which is the mecca of international events.
We have adopted a radical economic transformation policy which is set to redress economic injustices of our past and create more opportunities for the majority of our people in order for them to have meaningful participation in the economy.

In keeping with the norm from the past years, we will be hosting a number of tours with key trade and media partners to our township and rural tourism products, including areas like Inanda Heritage Route, The Valley of 1000 Hills and many others. We have been doing this as a way of promoting the vibrancy and cultural diversity of our destination, and in order to profile Durban as a destination in its entirety.

Furthermore, this year we have taken a decision that we will host most of our side-events in our townships, where we will be profiling all the products that are situated in these areas in order to showcase Durban’s unique local flavors.

The importance of this exercise is that we will be hosting trade partners and key decision-makers in the global tourism space. This enables them to speak knowledgeably about our destination and its hidden gems.

The idea was borne out the knowledge we have received from our international trade engagements research that says a lot of visitors are attracted to experiences more than the destinations themselves.

More than strengthening brand awareness and attracting investment into these various township establishments, this move has proven to be a key platform for product development in these areas.

Research shows that there is a growing interest in our township products and we therefore felt that there is a need for us to focus on developing these township products to be of global standards.
It is during these tours and hosted events that our local product owners will be exposed to what really are the global standards and expectations of a modern day traveller.
To this effect, we have also noted that the Shisanyama Experience in the townships is a growing phenomenon that is fast becoming a must-visit experience for all our domestic and international visitors. The unique culinary experience portrays the lifestyle and culture of our locals and the added exposure at events of this nature will help towards the empowerment and expansion of these types of enterprises.

Furthermore, this is an extension to our strategy of taking the world to Durban, as part of driving conversions from our 2013 visitor marketing strategy.

The City of Durban will also use Indaba as a platform to showcase our proudly Durban Global success enquiries.

Our international award-winning Ladysmith Black Mambazo have become global ambassadors for the City of Durban and our people. We have endorsed an exciting partnership with our homegrown icons and we are positive that the Durban brand and the proud KZN roots will be transcended to various global audiences, taking Durban to the world.

Most of you would have seen the interest that our locals have shown through their overwhelming response when we took the Cell-C Sharks games to our townships across Durban.

This proves that even at a communal level there is a fertile environment, and our people are ready and willing to create vibrant tourism atmospheres in their areas and contribute in the overall agenda of economic development.
What we saw during those games was a socially-cohesive Durban and people that are willing to be ambassadors of their own city.
It is our long held view that the tourism and hospitality industries do not only contribute to the economic development agenda, but they also play a much bigger role of creating unity in our communities.
Indaba has been able to maintain its position as the premier travel show on the African continent.
The show’s focus on promoting African travel has been very rewarding for the City of Durban, in particular to enable our product owners to do business with some of the top travel brands in Africa and deepen the relationships with hosted buyers from Africa and around the world.
We look forward to a successful Indaba in the host city, Durban, Africa’s leading events and tourism capital, and to the building of many sustainable relationships to grow tourism for our country.
We trust that we will be a memorable host city and we hope that Durban, the warmest place to be, retains its long held status of being the home of the Tourism Indaba.

* The Tourism Indaba takes place from 16 -18 May. For more coverage of this premier tourism trade show buy The Mercury, Daily News and Sunday Tribune and visit iol.co.za.