South Africa’s Minister of Tourism, Derek Hanekom has challenged African countries to take advantage of their authentic and meaningful experiences to help the growth of tourism on the continent for the benefit of their people.

“As tourism succeeds, the continent succeeds, and millions of people benefit from this success,” the minister said. “Tourism in South Africa, and in Africa, is on the brink of a new success story.”

He said Africa has what it takes to take advantage of the opportunities that tourism offers. “Africa is a vibrant melting pot for tourism: the diverse cultures, customs and traditions of our people, merged with the endless variety of our landscapes, blended with our unique biodiversity, and fired by the spirit of freedom and equality.”

Mr. Hanekom was addressing the media and tourism industry professionals during the official opening of INDABA, the annual tourism trade show organized by South Africa Tourism, taking place in Durban, KwaZulu-Natal Province of South Africa.

The opening took place on Saturday morning at the auditorium of the venue of the three-day event, the Inkosi Albert Luthuli International Convention Centre in the centre of Durban.

He said, “the world’s tourists want what we have: authentic, meaningful experiences. They still want leisure, wildlife and adventure, and they continue to come to Africa for this. But, more and more, tourists want to meet real people in their homes and communities. They want a taste of local traditions and customs.This provides opportunities for many more people from indigenous communities to become involved in tourism.”

INDABA is the biggest tourism trade show on the African continent and it brings together several people from across the tourism value chain as exhibitors, buyers as well as the media to create opportunities for business in the sector.

The 2016 edition of INDABA has as its theme “Putting you at the forefront of business success” and it brought together over 1000 Exhibitors to showcase their businesses, have meetings, do speed marketing and engage buyers from 7th May to 9th May 2016.

Touching on the growth potential of tourism in Africa Mr. Hanekom said all the statistics show that Africa’s tourism will grow. “The United Nations World Tourism Organisation estimates that international tourist arrivals will grow by 4% this year. Tourist arrivals in Africa are expected to reach 130 million by 2030. This is more than double the 50 million arrivals we are currently receiving.

“Investment in tourism across Africa is making tourism a key economic driver. Emerging economies are shifting away from their reliance on commodities, and moving towards innovation and the services sector,” said Mr. Hanekom.

“Tourism on our continent is built on the enduring value of our natural assets and the authentic cultural experiences we offer. It also depends on our capacity to provide excellent infrastructure, facilities and service,” he mentioned.

“We are a massive continent. The sheer scale of our deserts, forests and plains is a wonder in itself, let alone their beauty. We have the most amazing natural splendor. Our landscapes and biodiversity are unmatched in the world. We have World Heritage Sites that reveal the earth’s secrets and relate the story of humanity,” he stressed.

In spite of this, Mr. Derek Hanekom said there still more to be done to improve movement to and from the continent. “Despite positive development like these, our continent still faces impediments to growth. Air transport services remain a key constraint. Many major airlines fly to Africa from North America, Europe, and Asia. But, once visitors reach the continent, they encounter difficulties in travelling from country to country.”

He also said “If one quarter of African countries were to implement the Open Skies for Africa decision and facilitate greater air access between our countries, an additional 155,000 jobs and USD 1.3 billion in GDP could be generated, with obvious benefits for tourism.But all our attractions and facilities would stand idle without the people, the genuine people of Africa, welcoming tourists warmly, catering for their needs professionally, and sharing our culture in memorable ways.”

To conclude, the South Africa tourism Minister said “As we all embark on our long walk together, tourism will help us to grow our economies and advance our people. And this will take us to the summit of freedom.”

Also present to address the media were the Mayor of Durban, Mr James Nxumalo, and the MEC for KwaZulu-Natal Department of Economic Development, Tourism and Environmental Affairs, Mr Michael Mabuyakhulu.

INDABA opened with 5938 number of meetings scheduled for Saturday only, 1047 exhibitors, 1856 buyers and 724 media. Owned by South African Tourism, INDABA is one of the largest tourism marketing events on the African calendar and showcases the widest variety of Africa’s best tourism products and services. The event attracts quality buyers from across South Africa, the African continent and the world.