Durban's Tourism Indaba to restore city’s ‘dented image’
DURBAN’s hospitality sector officials have moved into damage-control mode and have said they are optimistic about the turnout for this week’s Tourism Indaba.
Officials have even gone as far as to say the event will restore the city’s dented image and that they expect thousands to visit the flagship tourism event.
Tourism Indaba is regarded as one of Africa’s largest marketing events and generates millions of rands for the city.
Durban’s tourism brand has taken a beating following weeks of xenophobic violence that displaced thousands of mostly African foreign immigrants.
At least seven people were killed — three South Africans and four foreign nationals — during the flare-up in KwaZulu-Natal and parts of Gauteng.
Mozambique is boycotting this year’s Tourism Indaba, which starts on Saturday, apparently in protest against some of its nationals being attacked and killed.
It is understood that delegates from the US, UK and other African countries cancelled their bookings after the unrest broke out.
In addition the UK has issued a warning to its citizens not to travel to SA unless they have to and the US has put SA on its list of countries to avoid.
But Durban Tourism boss Philip Sithole said on Monday they expected 9,000 visitors.
Security plans were in place to protect delegates and event venues, he said.
"The indaba will continue as planned and we are not foreseeing any hindrances.
"We are calling delegates and exhibitors to come to our city so that they can see that everything is back to normal.
"We are very excited that this Tourism Indaba is going to serve as a boost, both in terms of the image (of the city) as well as in terms of (money) that will be spent during the event," Mr Sithole said.
"It is a perfect opportunity for us to restore … the city’s image following the unrest."
Tourism Indaba officials would take delegates, including nearly 200 journalists, on tours to various parts of the city to show that calm had returned.
Federated Hospitality Association of Southern Africa spokesman Charles Preece agreed with Mr Sithole’s sentiments about the indaba restoring Durban’s tattered image as a tourism destination.
"It (Tourism Indaba) is an opportune time to show that the violence is gone … It will take some time for us to return to the pre-xenophobic violence period. But this indaba will allow us to move forward," Mr Preece said.
"Some of our members have reported that there have been some cancellations … But we can recover from this in the years to come."
The KwaZulu-Natal Bed and Breakfast Association said it hoped that the city’s authorities would be able ease the fears of a sceptical tourism market.
Last year more than 10,000 delegates and exhibitors attended Tourism Indaba and added an estimated R140m to the coffers of several Durban establishments.
But Tourism Indaba was thrown into disarray last year when Mr Sithole accused SA Tourism of allowing the event — which is funded and hosted by Durban — to be hijacked by Cape Town.
Meanwhile, on Monday was the first day of the Ocean Rim Association Blue Economy Core Group workshop in Durban, hosted by the Human Sciences Research Council under the theme "promoting fisheries, aquaculture, maritime safety and security co-operation in the Indian Ocean region".