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African Countries Urged to Revise Visa Policies as Travel Indaba Opens with Fanfare in Durban

Quest suggested that those who already have a US or Shenghen visa be allowed entry to South Africa and other African countries.

South African Tourism’s three-day travel exhibition, Africa’s Travel Indaba, kicked off on Tuesday at the Durban International Convention Centre to much fanfare and to the delight of tourism industry stakeholders who can now go about their business without the shadow cast by the now-downgraded Covid-19 pandemic.

 Africa’s biggest travel trade show was opened by South Africa’s Minister of Tourism, Patricia De Lille, after an elaborate ceremony that had a choir, confetti and fireworks. 

Themed ‘Shaping Africa’s Tomorrow, Through Connection Today’, the exhibition’s primary focus is to open Africa to the world in a manner that positively influences the continent’s economic and cultural trajectories.
This year’s edition of Indaba has representatives from 21 African countries in attendance, about 6,000 delegates,

 more than 350 tourism products being showcased, 1000 buyers from across the tourism ecosystem and just under 1000 exhibitors.

As a result, Durban’s hospitality industry is witnessing a major economic boost, adding $7M added to the province’s (KwaZulu-Natal) GDP.

The attendees at Indaba include destination marketing bodies, hotel groups, airlines, tour operators, African tourism boards among others.

However, there is no doubt that attendance at the expo would have been much higher with a friendlier visa policy, an issue that was brought to the front burner and discussed bluntly in a no holds barred panel session moderated by CNN Business anchor Richard Quest.

“It is an honour and privilege for me to be here at the 2023 Africa’s Travel Indaba in this picturesque city of Durban, renowned for its sunshine, surfing, and swimming and of course cultural melting points amongst many attractions,” De Lille said at the opening ceremony. 

“As Africans, together, we will craft a narrative that tells our story in our own words, sharing with the world the unique contributions we bring to the global tourism community.”

According to De Lille, a lot has changed during the COVID-19 pandemic. “We felt it necessary and critical to reposition Africa’s Travel Indaba to ensure it remains relevant in the current environment.”

This positioning she said, is to bring the world to Africa to positively influence the continent’s economic and cultural trajectories.

Harmonised Visa Policy 

 De Lille acknowledged that there are challenges in the tourism industry that African countries have to overcome, to ensure that the continent achieves its goals without any barriers.

“These include the visa regime and airlift capacity. African countries must have a harmonized visa regime across the continent to make it easier for visitors to move from one country to another,” she said.

She further said “on the global stage, Africa is deemed the strongest performer with international air connectivity, however, this growth is uneven with some African regions and countries having better airlift connectivity than the others.”

She stressed that African countries must ensure that every effort to promote the continent’s tourism is inclusive and beneficial to all of its members.

Later on opening day, a more intimate session tagged ‘ The Global Media Face Off’ was moderated by CNN business travel anchor Richard Quest. 

The major exchange between the panel (which included Minister De Lille) and the audience comprised of stakeholders in the tourism ecosystem, was on prohibitive visa policies of African countries, especially towards fellow Africans.

There was a litany of complaints from members of the audience on how difficult it was to get into South Africa.

The main question asked repeatedly in different forms by Quest was, “What is the practical way to get a  revised visa policy to work?’

He more than once suggested that those who already already have an American or Schengen visa should automatically be given visas to South Africa and other African countries since they’ve already been profiled.

This idea got near unanimous acceptance from the audience.

Bouncing Back from Covid

The 2023 edition Africa’s Travel Indaba is also a celebration of a rebounding tourism industry, with attendance nearing pre-pandemic levels.

According to De Lille, the event demonstrates that “we can host world-class safe events as Africans”.

Demola Ojo 

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