SAT addressing Indaba challenges

SA Tourism will continue to address the challenges facing Indaba in order to focus the show squarely on building the right relationships that convert into profitable transactions for industry suppliers, SA Tourism Chief Marketing Officer, Jan Hutton, has assured the trade.
Hutton addressed the SATSA KwaZulu-Natal Chapter meeting on Tuesday to assess this year’s Indaba, looking at what worked and what didn’t. The Indaba post mortem had been done in Cape Town and Johannesburg, clearly demonstrating that SA Tourism took the trade’s feedback to heart, Hutton said.
The key theme of this year’s Indaba was to return to the basics and go back to the feel of the Johannesburg Stock Exchange trading floor, explained Hutton. “It’s about reconnecting key existing relationships and building new ones. Mostly it’s about deal-making,” she said.
There were many new introductions to this year’s Indaba. Hutton said the purpose of any innovations was to remain relevant, add more value, regain a bigger competitive advantage, and ensure sustainability of the trade show as Africa’s top travel show. The Premium Lounge, which has received a fair share of criticism from the trade, still holds value, according to Hutton.  
She said SA Tourism had investigated international trade show best practice and believed Indaba should be a hybrid, promoting the uniqueness of Africa through all aspects of the execution of the show, as well as offering a more structured configuration that promoted investment in quality meetings rather than purely lavishly constructed stand designs. 
SA Tourism had decided to design six-square-metre studios, allowing exhibitors to reduce their capital costs and still have a beautiful, well-branded representation at Indaba, with great coffee, uncapped WiFi and a hostess service in an access-controlled zone, said Hutton. The intention was to have a more hands-on approach in curating smart matchmaking, to help exhibitors fill their diaries, giving them early access to the hosted buyers in defined 20-minute meetings, she added. 
However, Hutton said that amid the highly competitive new travel trade show landscape, a lot of exhibitors had taken the ‘wait and see’ approach with Indaba this year, assessing which trade show would add most value. The delay in signing up meant that SA Tourism had released both its exhibitor and final buyer list later than anticipated. 
The resultant problem was that buyers either didn’t commit to exhibitor meeting requests in time, or simply never arrived at the allocated confirmed meetings. Hutton said SA Tourism was now looking at how best to package the Premium Lounge concept and promote it to the industry. The idea needs to be implemented correctly, and in time, to gain maximum value. 
The Buyer Zone was probably the least successful this year, according to Hutton, but also still holds a lot of merit. The idea was to have unscheduled five-minute introductory meetings between exhibitors and selected buyers from a specific region. Exhibitors would therefore be gaining unprecedented access all hosted buyers. 
The challenge with the Buyer Zone was that it had been scheduled during the course of normal Indaba trading hours, which distracted from existing appointments, said Hutton. She added that a lot of buyers chose to honour the appointments they had instead of rushing off to the Buyer Zone “which, in hindsight was undoubtedly the right decision to make,” she said. “Going forward, all peripheral Indaba activities, although adding measurable value, will be arranged around the core programme of Indaba appointments.”
The three-day format seemed to be a unanimous success, said Hutton. In contrast though, she said there had been complaints that there was not enough time, especially considering “that Indaba has become a truly African tradeshow, and has numerous new innovations such as the Tech Zone”. 
Lastly, the question of whether Indaba would continue to be hosted in Durban was addressed. SAT has an existing contract with the Bid-Parties (ICC, TKZN and City of Durban) that will expire after Indaba 2015. Indaba 2015, therefore, will undoubtedly still take place in Durban. After that, the discussion will be opened again. Hutton expressed SA Tourism’s gratitude to the industry, for “overtly supporting Indaba, unwaveringly seeing the necessity of ‘our’ own travel tradeshow, and co-creating the future of it”.


By Atta Media Partner, Now Media