The Team South Africa delegation to ITB Berlin last week – led by South African Tourism CEO, Nombulelo Guliwe and joined by 63 exhibitors including 14 SMMEs – has returned to SA with optimism having largely achieved their goals of good meetings with buyers and new business prospects.

Speaking on the side lines of one of the largest global trade shows, Guliwe said: “I have received great feedback from exhibitors at the stand who said that the quality of the buyers they have met with has already proven to yield positive results. Some of the exhibitors already have confirmed bookings emanating from their meetings here at ITB. This is what makes our presence at this trade show worthwhile.”

In addition to the meetings held, on the first day of the trade show South Africa cemented its presence and brand positioning at an event attended by close to 40 members of the media and trade.

“With Europe being a key source market for South Africa, this show is a good platform for us to invest our efforts in as we strive to grow our tourism numbers even further,” added Guliwe.

She said South Africa had welcomed 1.2 million tourists from Europe last year, marking a 38.2% increase compared with the same period in 2022. “Among European countries, the United Kingdom remained the top source market, with 356 160 tourists choosing South Africa, representing a 25.8% growth compared with 2022. German tourists also increased by 41.6% to reach 245 259,” Guliwe said.

According to her, South Africa’s message to all the partners was clear – the destination has a wide variety of unique tourism products and offerings geared to cater for various traveller needs.

Sales Director at Sense of Africa South Africa, Suzanne Benadie, noted that South Africa had been well represented at ITB.

“SA Tourism had a very good stand, open and welcoming, and it was spacious and colourful. There was also a good presence from South Africa on individual stands as well as on the African Travel and Tourism Association and On Show,” she said.

CEO of GoVacation Africa, Sabine Blehle, agreed, pointing out that there had been a wide range of products/activities and many ground-handling representatives. “Anybody looking for new and exciting product would have found what they were looking for.”

South African National Parks (SANParks) showcased the country’s diverse sustainable experiences and products that allowed visitors to revel in the beauty of South Africa and its warm people while simultaneously making a direct, positive impact on the well-being of nature and local communities.

“At SANPArks, we are largely known for the ‘Big 5’ experience through our world-renowned conservation areas such as Kruger National Park. We, however, have much more varied offerings in our parks. We feature diverse landscapes, marine life and rich cultural heritage sites. We encourage our visitors to venture into lesser-known parks,” said Kaula Nyilenda-Mphaphuli, Managing Executive: Tourism Development and Marketing.

Objectives achieved/opportunities identified

Many exhibitors Tourism Update spoke to said it was difficult to determine return on investment, including new business, so soon after the event but most said they’d achieved their objectives of reconnecting with existing clients in the Germanic and European market and to identify new potential clients.

Ken Hill, CEO of Drifters Adventure Tours, said: “ITB provides a platform to meet many of our agents from around the world at one venue. Our Intention was to meet with and update as many of our agents as possible and also to engage with as many new agents as possible. I had some 25 meetings over the three days and achieved both goals.”

COO of Sense of Oceans, Martijn Mellaart, added that establishing strong relationships for the entire Tourvest network was also a key objective. “We have never worked closer together than we did at this ITB.”

Benadie added that the group had “some positive connections” for the high-end FIT segment, with a focus on luxury travel. “We also had good engagement with some small group tour operators.”

“We picked up great opportunities from existing clients that would like to expand their exposure to South Africa. The opportunities are mainly in the groups und luxury segments,” noted Blehle.

Michael Njogu, Managing Director of Sense of Africa, East Africa, told Tourism Update: “The demand for East Africa appears to continue, with many customers keen on doing more, and with new projects. It was also a great opportunity to clarify the many changes (increase in park fees, visa reforms etc) that were introduced in the last few months.”

Mellaart mentioned that in terms of opportunities in source markets, Eastern Europe and France were new and growing source markets for Sense of Oceans.

“We have some good organic growth from a tour operator in Estonia, with luxury small groups of about 10 passengers per tour,” added Benadie.

Many exhibitors also highlighted that the online diaries didn’t work very well and that opportunities to meet new buyers could always be improved.