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From May 8-10 at the Albert Luthuli Convention Centre in Durban, South Africa, South African Tourism (SAT) hosted 100 delegates from the U.S. at Indaba, the largest showcase for travel in Africa, to celebrate the centenary of the birth of former South African president and human rights icon Nelson Mandela (100 delegates for 100 years). The group included 35 members of the media and 65 travel trade representatives comprised of travel agents, tour operators, group organizers and buyers.

The hosts of Indaba—South African Tourism along with the city of Durban and Tourism KwaZulu-Natal—welcomed not only American delegates but more than 1,700 buyers from around the world and 1,120 exhibitors to promote their offerings at Indaba. SAT curated itineraries for the delegates, designed around the theme “Madiba’s Journey,” which follows Mandela’s legacy from humble birth in the Transkei to president of the ANC Youth League to prisoner on Robben Island to president of South Africa. (

South Africa
Tourists standing underneath the Nelson Mandela statue.

In a press conference on the first day of the show, COO of South African Tourism Sthembiso Dlamini told attendees that South African Tourism (SAT) is currently focusing its attention on three major initiative. First, leveraging the Mandela centenary to attract visitors, noting Mandela’s status as a “global icon.” Second, the LGBT market; and third, the African American market, which, she said, has received a boost from the recent popularity of the blockbuster film, “Black Panther.” (Parts of the movie were filmed in Cape Town and its characters speak Xhosa, one of the official languages of South Africa.) SAT is also intent on building South Africa’s tourism arrivals numbers, she said, which have grown year over year since the country welcomed tourists in 1994 under Mandela, its first democratically elected president.

Derek Hanekom, South Africa’s minister of tourism (a member of Mandela’s cabinet from 1994–1995), said that last year, South Africa welcomed 370,000 visitors from the United States and the country has enjoyed 7.5 percent year on year growth from the United States. Addressing the drought in Cape Town and the “Day Zero” message’s effect on tourism, Hanekom said, “The lesson is in the messaging and Day Zero was not a good one. There was never going to be a Day Zero.” And while Capetonians are currently limited to 13 gallons of water per person per day due to the drought, Hanekom said, “The chances of Cape Town having a season as dry as last year is one in a zillion. Cape Town is not going to run out of water.” Hanekom’s message was echoed by that of hoteliers and tour operators on the showroom floor. Lorenzo Giani, who represents the Cullinan and Southern Sun hotels on Cape Town’s waterfront, said that these hotels are equipped with desalination plants (as are most) and that, “It’s okay to visit. There are no worries.”

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