Sandisiwe Mbhele
Lifestyle Journalist
4 minute read
12 May 2022
2:08 pm

Africa Travel Indaba: The resilience of domestic tourism and its hidden gems

Sandisiwe Mbhele

Attempting to bounce back from floods, Durban gathered itself to showcase the best in the city's tourism at Africa Travel Indaba.

Located in a province still recovering from the devastating floods in April, KwaZulu Natal’s main city, Durban, successfully hosted one of the biggest tourism exhibitions in the world, the Africa Travel Indaba between 2 May and 5 May.

After a two-year suspension, the tourism industry is attempting to make up for lost time and claw back the losses experienced due to the Covid-19 pandemic.

However, there is a consensus that locals have almost saved South Africa tourism. 

Africa’s Travel Indaba 

Officially opening the trade floor at the Durban International Convention Centre (ICC), Minister of Tourism Lindiwe Sisulu put in motion the 22,000 scheduled meetings between exhibitors and buyers.

“Africa’s Travel Indaba is a springboard for the continent to achieve even greater levels of recovery. We are here because we have a collective responsibility to reignite the African continent’s tourism growth and economy,” she said.

The minister also implored a move to an Afro-centric approach to travel even hinting that major attractions such as Victoria Falls in Zimbabwe should consider name changes. 

Acting CEO of SA Tourism Themba Khumalo said the domestic market has become stronger, as there are new hotels and cultural experiences established after the pandemic. 

WATCH: Africa Travel Indaba and its hidden gems

The exhibitor categories include accommodation, tour operators, game lodges, transport, online travel, luxury products, hidden gems, media publications and relevant industry associations. We rezoned the hidden gems, places and towns we should pop in. 

There was a media panel discussion- “How the African Tourism” sector is gearing up toward recovery largely focused on how the African continent needed to work together to overcome challenges that shouldn’t exist in 2022.

They included how the Southern African Development Community (SADC) regions needed to be cohesive in travel adherences in point of entries, one visa for Southern Africa, “it is critical to unlock this, as it has become a barrier for domestic tourism, says Tshifihwa Tshivhengwa, CEO of Tourism Business Council for SA. 

Hidden gems and where locals are flocking too

As many locals travel their country, there was also a focus on what people need to see other than the well know cities, beaches and sights.  

One of the charges for local travel is the Sho’t Left Travel week. We were hosted in partnership with South African tourism to experience Durban during the travel indaba. This initiative connects local tourist destinations to match the increasing interest in the domestic market.

Africa Travel Indaba at Durban ICC. Picture: Sibongumenzi Sibiya

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Mashoto Mokgethi of South African Tourism says people are going back to what they love, as their aim is for South Africans to enjoy their country their way.

“Our job for one is to give them the information they need and is affordable.” 

The most memorable places Mokgethi has visited and her hidden gems are Clarence in KwaZulu-Natal, Augrabies in Northern Cape for its views and the province’s little known wine farms. She adds the province of Mpumalanga is also a must-see along the panorama route and pop in for a lunch in one of the caves.  

A popular area, either way, owner and co-founder Malinda Attree of five-star luxury boutique, Sandals Guest House in Umhlanga Rocks says they offer a comfortable away from home accommodation.

She explains their market isn’t bed and breakfast, they can offer dinner courses to “bring something extra for the guest because the guest isn’t just another number.” 

Attree recommends travellers in Umhlanga Rocks to visit their golf courses as their over 10 in the area, pop in the botanical gardens and just an hour’s drive is Nottingham to taste wine at one of the wine farms. 

Aerial views of Durban north beach. Picture: Sibongumenzi Sibiya

During our excursions in Durban North, we experienced a helicopter ride facilitated by BAC helicopters at Virginia Airport.

Nothing beats the stunning aerial views of the beaches and harbour, up in the air we also saw the damage caused by the KZN floods.

The air of disaster still lingers in the sandy waters, damaged homes and water shortages. But there is a sense of calm in the city, the people are still friendly as ever and resilient throughout.