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For the first time, I took part in INDABA, the annual tourism exhibition that plays host to African countries in South Africa. Together with South Africa, these countries seek to sell their natural beauty, culture and what they have to offer international visitors during the travel trade show. Sadly, Ghana’s participation this year, like most of the previous years did not include visible displays to sell Ghana as a potential tourism destination to the world; either as a country or individual companies. Apart from the participation of the Tour Operators Union of Ghana (TOUGHA), Ghana’s other involvement came through media, for which I was there. TOUGHA is a member-driven union that offers inbound and outbound tourism services in Ghana. It also seeks to promote the development of the tourism industry in Ghana, although not its main mandate. The CEO of the Ghana Tourism Authority (GTA) was invited to INDABA 2017 but couldn’t take part due to last minute schedule clashes. The Tourism Act established GTA as the main implementing body of the Ministry of Tourism. As the implementing agency of tourism policies, the functions of GTA include: the regulation of tourism enterprises namely accommodation, catering, travel and charter operations through registration, inspection, licensing and classification; the promotion and marketing of tourism, both in Ghana and outside Ghana, including the publication of tourism publicity and promotional materials, and participation in fairs and exhibitions; carrying out research and studies on trends in the tourism industry both at home and abroad to aid decision and policy-making; as well as facilitating the development of tourist facilities and products. The INDABA 2017 offered a perfect opportunity for the GTA to perform these duties and showcase Ghana to the world’s tourism players and media. Now check out what Ghana missed this year; and cannot afford to miss next year, as the INDABA transitions into ‘Africa’s Travel INDABA’ from 2018: The INDABA has been held annually in South Africa for more than 20 years and aims to showcase a wide variety of tourism products and experiences from around the continent. This year’s show attracted about 7 000 delegates, including 1 449 local and international buyers, as well as more than 1 000 exhibiting businesses from 18 African countries showcasing a diverse array of travel and tourism offerings. [caption id="attachment_108405" align="aligncenter" width="800"] A media discussion at 2017 INDABA[/caption] A total of 692 registered media representatives attended the show from all over the world, and there were also international government and private tour operators from Europe and the United States. Hosted by South Africa’s Department of Tourism alongside the South African Tourism Board, the INDABA this year reportedly saw 20,000 confirmed meetings being held over the three show days from May 16 –18. In addition, the trade show’s first ever Business Opportunity Networking Day (BONDay) session for exhibitors took place on Monday 15 May. It allowed the sharing of international best practice in the area of marketing and communications for the benefit of exhibitors, who were also given a platform to network and interact. [caption id="attachment_108406" align="aligncenter" width="900"] An exhibition stand at 2017 INDABA, Durban ICC[/caption] Industry players from countries including Angola, Botswana, the DRC, Lesotho, Madagascar, Malawi, Mauritius, Mozambique, Namibia, Seychelles, Senegal, South Africa, Swaziland, Tanzania, Zambia and Zimbabwe, took part in this year’s INDABA. And beyond the talks and meetings, most of them had representations at the exhibition center at the Durban International Convention Center, displaying their products and services to the world. South African Tourism chief executive Sisa Ntshona, and indeed many of the participants reiterated the importance of the trade show, and promoting not just tourism but general trade between African countries. Speaking to the issue of Ghana and Nigerian not being visible at the INDABA, Evelyn Mahlaba, Regional Director for Africa at South African Tourism said: “We continuously market INDABA to different countries within the continent. By working closely with the various tourism associations in Ghana as well as Nigeria, we are starting to market and show them the opportunities that exist in exhibiting at INDABA. During the show, you’d realize that in some instances, you don’t necessarily see the countries, you see the product, and so some people are coming through as hoteliers, or brand experiences of tourism. There are various opportunities to explore.” Yes the opportunities are many for Ghana as a country to sell itself as a destination, and for practitioners within the sector to do same for themselves. I would love to see indigenous Ghanaian hotels, restaurants, resorts and tour operators grab the spotlight at the next INDABA, Africa’s Travel INDABA!!!]]>