Indaba 2015: The jury’s out

This year’s Indaba was quieter than last year, but the quality of the buyers is better. This was the feedback from members of the trade that spoke to Tourism Update at the show.

The Tourism Indaba was held at the Albert Luthuli International Convention Centre in Durban
The Tourism Indaba was held at the Albert Luthuli International Convention Centre in Durban

Buyer, Ypie Kingma, Sales and Marketing at Platinum Golf Tours and Accommodation, said there are less people on the floor compared to years before. “It’s less busy but in a way that’s good for us because we can get to where we are going without being side-tracked, especially when you have a specific focus, like golf.”

Kingma said that because there are many other trade shows happening in the country, it has become costly and buyers have become fragmented. “Buyers and exhibitors don’t know where to put their money.”

Cuan McLaren, Director of Australia-based African Ubuntu Safaris, also said the shower was quieter than previous years. However, he said that for him Indaba remains a show to attend because everyone he needs to see will be at the show.

Craig Drysdale, GM: Global Sales for Thompsons Africa, said: “The temperament is always up and down at Indaba, but this year it has been very flat and the hosted buyers have not been impressive. They are of good quality but there is not enough in quantity.”

Drysdale also said SA Tourism has taken away exhibitors’ access to buyers by only allowing invited exhibitors to take part in speed marketing sessions and that operators are missing that “five minute card exchange that is so important – even if you don’t talk, you get the card and follow up later”.

According to Andre’ Laget, MD of Akilanga DMC & Events, Indaba has been good and it is always good. He says he sees everyone who he needs to see at the show.

“The overall foot traffic is diluted and we’re not seeing networking like we used to,” said Martin Wiest, CEO of Tourvest Inbound. “The main thing for us at Indaba is to meet up with existing clients and maintain those relationships, because this show does not bring new business anymore,” Wiest said. “I can come in after 08h00 and there will still be parking,” he added, illustrating that Indaba had less attendees.

“We love our existing clients, and the buyers we have are of high quality, but there needs to be a better balance of buyers and exhibiter,” Wiest said. “Indaba needs to reinvent itself for it to remain relevant. There needs to be more educational content that is of interest to the trade,” he said pointing to the daily show schedule of events listed in the Indaba Daily News.

Anita Vernes, Director of Southern Spoor, described previous Indaba shows as being “one big ball of energy” and that this year’s show seems to lack the same amount of positive energy from exhibitors. “I think it’s mostly the exhibitors who are complaining. I mean they are spending so much money to be here, they might as well not spend three days moaning about it.”

“We’ve had a good mix of new and key buyers and have over 90 appointments in three days. Where in the world can you meet that many people in three days?” Vernes said. “The show has always been good for us, and we’ve had good quality buyers, but there is definitely less people.” Vernes said the online matchmaking tool was not working well and that their appointments were mostly done manually before the show, but added that it takes years for new ideas to work and for people to catch on.

Karin Murray, Marketing and Sales Manager at Airlink said she remembers Indaba when the passages in the ICC were congested, and full of people. “Last year they had empty stands and they turned them into lounges and now you have half of the exhibitors from the DEC (Durban Exhibition Centre) moved to the ICC, which just shows you how empty it is.”

Murray agrees with other exhibitors that the quality of buyers is better this year, “Buyers are here with a specific purpose, existing clients will pop in as more of a courtesy thing but then they won’t engage again.” Murray added that Durban was still the perfect venue for Indaba and disagrees with the sentiment that it should be moved.

Drysdale said the trade will always support Indaba, but that they just want “more bang for [their] buck” as they are now starting to question their return on investment.

Tourism Update

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