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Indaba 2023: African Tourism Bounces Back After Covid-19

Countries have been urged to collaborate further on visa issuance to unlock the continent’s tourism potential.

It’s barely one week after the World Health Organisation downgraded the Covid-19 pandemic, saying it’s no longer a global health emergency, but apparently, Africa’s travel business has already recovered to near pre-pandemic levels,. In some cases, the numbers are back to normal. 

This was one of the revelations at Africa’s Travel Indaba taking place in Durban from May 9-11.

Attendance at Indaba has been impressive, with more than 6,000 delegates, including 1,000 international buyers and 1,000 exhibitors showcasing 350 products.

Indaba boasts exhibitors from 21 African countries, including 10 tourism boards.

And according to South Africa’s Minister of Tourism Patricia De Lille during her keynote address at Indaba,, the future looks bright; “We have, collectively, weathered the COVID-19 hurricane and it should only propel us to exceed our targets.”

She said that for South Africa, there has been “encouraging growth in our tourist arrival numbers between January and December 2022, where it reached nearly 5.8 million with over 4 million of those arrivals from African countries.” 

This represents an overall inbound increase of 152.6% for South Africa compared to January to December 2021.

The Mayor of Durban Councillor Mxolisi Kaunda who told the audience that Durban was honoured to host Africa’s Travel Indaba 2023, said eThekwini Municipality has identified meetings, conferences, workshops, exhibitions, and business travel as its area of focus for post-COVID-19 recovery. 

Recent statistics, he revealed, “show that the sector (in Durban) will recover to 95% of the 2019 job levels.”

Meanwhile de Lille said collaboration across the value chain is necessary to make it easier for visitors to move from one country to another within the continent. South Africa, she added, “is leading the way with visa waivers for several African countries and the rollout of an e-visa system to countries like Kenya, Nigeria, and Egypt.”

She promised that the goal “is to expand the e-visa system to 20 more countries, making Africa a more attractive destination for Africans and international travellers.

The Minister said competition is essential for destination marketing and tourism. However, “it should be balanced with collaboration to avoid unhealthy practices and foster healthy competition based on quality and innovation.”

She noted that harmonising visa regimes and simplifying the application process is vital for unlocking Africa’s tourism potential.

“Our people across the continent of Africa are our greatest asset. As Africans, we must do more to break down the stereotypes by promoting cultural exchanges, celebrating excellence and diversity through song and dance and sharing various cuisines that make Africa the magnet of international tourists,” she insisted.

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