Record-breaking WTM Africa 2024 propels African tourism to new highs

Leading pan-Africa travel show sees 900 pc growth in 10 years
/ Cape Town, South Africa
WTM Africa
Record-breaking WTM Africa 2024 propels African tourism to new highs

WTM Africa is part of the broader Africa Travel Week, which comprises shows like the TIFA, ILTM Africa, WTM Africa and Equal Africa (Photos: India Outbound/Varsha Singh)

With record numbers of participants and visitors, the 10th WTM Africa and accompanying Africa Travel Week, that was held in Cape Town, South Africa, lays the ground to propel travel and tourism industry across the African continent to new highs in 2024.
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If in 2023, tourism industry in Africa had roared back, shrugging off all impact of Covid-19 pandemic, then in 2024, it can certainly look to vastly improve on all the previous highs as a robust and highly-confident travel trade looks forward to the peak season in the months to come.

The high-expectations for the year and the confidence were in full evidence at the 10th World Travel Market Africa (WTM Africa) held at the Cape Town International Conference Centre in South Africa’s legislative capital.

Patricia De Lille

Patricia De Lille

That the year 2024 is set to be a record-shattering year for the travel and tourism industry was also outlined by Patricia De Lille, the dynamic Minister of Tourism of South Africa, who addressed the opening session of WTM Africa, through a video-conference.

De Lille expressed strong optimism about the industry’s performance this year and reeled out some numbers about WTM Africa to highlight her point. “Over 5,000 travel professionals, over 400 hosted buyers from 47 countries and 617 companies, 105 conference sessions, 122 specialist speakers & over 9,000 visitors,’’ she said.

“This year represents a year where we can take measures to break new ground and achieve exponential growth in our numbers,” De Lille added.

Alongside the growth in African tourism industry over the past decade, WTM Africa, which celebrates its 10th anniversary in 2024, too, has certainly come of age and its growth presages a corresponding growth in African tourism industry.

WTM Africa is part of the broader Africa Travel Week, which comprises shows like the Tourism Investment Forum Africa (TIFA), ILTM Africa, WTM Africa and Equal Africa. The year 2024 saw the addition of first-time participants, including Greece, Iran, Switzerland, Lithuania, Tunisia, Benin, Philippines, Singapore, New Zealand, Japan, Colombia and Peru.

WTM Africa

Carol Weaving

Carol Weaving, Managing Director, RX Africa, the organiser of the event, is suitably excited about the prospects of the tourism industry and WTM Africa.

‘‘We are delighted that it is our 10th year and it is our celebration of a decade of tourism and travel in Africa. And how we have grown is actually quite phenomenal. It is over 900 pc terms of attendees over the period of time, which is amazing. And even year-on-year from last year to this year, we have got an increase of 53 pc. So it is amazing that there is just so much excitement about Africa and Cape Town as well,’’ Weaving tells India Outbound, the sole hosted media from India at WTM Africa.

Weaving says that the agenda for the conference was diverse and rich, making it relevant to practically every segment and section of tourism industry, be it hospitality, travel technology, sports and events tourism, corporate travel and MICE.

‘‘What we have really tried to do is that we have honed in on a lot more content and there are so many topical things happening at the moment. The first thing that we have actually done is put a trend report together that we had been working on for the last 365 days. It is a very exciting report, with some startling outcomes and details on the things that are happening in travel and tourism industry,’’ Weaving says.

Another big element at WTM Africa, both in terms of content and the shape and form of the conference itself, is sustainability. ‘‘We obviously have a huge component of sustainability. Even the badges that we’re wearing that can be recycled up to seven times and we also have some badges that are actually seeded papers which you can go and plant. We have really tried to look at our sustainability. One of the big things for Africa and certainly South Africa is responsible tourism. We also have a responsible tourism conference and awards event here at WTM Africa,’’ Weaving adds.

The participants say that WTM Africa and its associated events certainly lived up to their expectations, both in terms of quality and quantity.

Ileshaa Nijhawan

Ileshaa Nijhawan

‘‘The event was incredibly insightful and educational. It provided a platform for us to expand our knowledge base, learn about industry trends, and gain valuable insights into the travel and tourism sector. Additionally, WTM Africa was instrumental in raising awareness about our brand and offerings within the global travel community,’’ Ileshaa Nijhawan, Cluster Director of Sales, Fairmont Kenya, tells India Outbound.

‘‘We had the opportunity to engage with various stakeholders, including potential clients, partners, and industry experts. This allowed us to showcase our services, highlight our unique selling points, and forge new connections. As a result, we were able to generate several promising leads and initiate productive conversations with prospective clients,’’ she adds.

Nijhawan says that thanks to her meetings and participation at WTM Africa, her company would be able to consolidate and expand its business further in the year.

‘‘Overall, WTM proved to be a highly receptive environment, with attendees showing genuine interest in our offerings and demonstrating a willingness to explore potential collaborations. We are optimistic about the opportunities that have arisen from our participation in this event and look forward to leveraging them to further grow and strengthen our presence in the travel industry,’’ she says.

Eyeing the Indian market

Attracted by the pace at which the Indian outbound travel market has grown since the end of the Covid-19, a number of destinations and tourism sites have been paying greater attention to India. One of the main beneficiaries of the boom in the Indian market has been Africa as a number of destinations, including South Africa, Kenya, Mauritius and Tanzania have recorded strong growth in the number of Indian visitors.

The increased importance of the Indian market for Africa was also in evidence at WTM Africa. ‘‘Well, certainly, both from our international buyers and buyers club and indeed our trade visitors, we have got a huge increase in the Indian market and we are very excited about that. But again, we need to grow that and we need to continue those wonderful relationships that we have started,’’ says Weaving.

Amongst the African tourism companies targetting India is Rovos Rail, an operator of luxury trains in southern Africa. Regardo Lewis, Sales & Marketing Manager at Rovos Rail (LATAM, India, Maldives), says that Rovos provides for an ideal and exclusive vacation for Indian travellers, notably families and honeymooners and that he is seeing greater traction from the Indian market.

Regardo Lewis

Regardo Lewis

“The Indian market for Rovos Rail as well as our St James Guesthouses has grown immensely over the last year. Even though we do not cater for Halaal or Kosher our wonderful chefs on board can most definitely prepare some of the best vegetarian or fish options as alternative,’’ Lewis tells India Outbound.

He adds that he has had several encouraging exchages with Indian travel trade about future business collaboration.

‘‘I have also had numerous online meetings with many travel agents and tour operators based in India for outbound travel, and always available for an introduction to Rovos Rail and our St James Guesthouses or anyone who wish to schedule product training on the 11 journeys we operate within Southern Africa,’’ adds Lewis.

However, for Africa to reach its potential in attracting tourists from India and other Asian nations, it would be vital that trans-frontier movement in the continent becomes easier with regional visas, if not a continent-wide visa, which many organisations and destinations have been advocating. Weaving says that the issue has been raised at various sessions in WTM Africa as well.

‘‘I think certainly in terms of the African Continental Free Trade Agreement, it has opened up borders. You have events like the Intra-Africa Trade Fair that I think has really helped stimulate growth, and that is spearheaded by Afreximbank, for instance. In terms of the visas, both, private sector and public sector, need to work together. We need to resolve these issues and we need to be efficient about it. So conversation is happening all the time, certainly between the associations and the governments,’’ Weaving adds.

With rising number of destinations in various parts of the world, including in Africa, opening up their borders to welcome Indian visitors by either easing visa rules or even waiving visas entirely, one can be certain that the year 2024 could also mark a high point for Africa as a preferred destination for Indian visitors.

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