In April I received an invitation from the South African Board of Tourism to attend Indaba in Durban, South Africa. This is the largest tourism tradeshow in Africa and the third largest in the world. They wanted me to be part of their hosted buyers program and would send me down and host me at the Hilton in Durban right next door to the convention center. Well – that was a total no-brainer. Who would turn this down? Especially someone like me that LOVES Africa so much and will pretty much do anything to get there as often as possible!!!
After reading the invitation a couple of times to make sure I wasn’t missing any fine print – I immediately hit reply with a quick “absolutely – I’d love to come!!!” They told me I could choose my dates for the flights so if I wanted to go early or stay after that was fine. There again – I answered very quickly that I absolutely would be staying after for safari!
I quickly arranged to visit one of my favorite places on earth – The Sabi Sands game reserve– as well as a visit to Kruger National Park. I then arranged to go to Botswana for a few nights, but I will post about the safaris in a different report.
My itinerary was emailed to me for my approval a few days later. I did not know what I would be flying and was excited to see my Virgin upper class schedule from New York to Johannesburg with a long layover in London. Once again – it didn’t take me long to reply “absolutely!” I was very excited about the flight as it would be my first time in upper class on Virgin. I was also excited about visiting the upper class lounge at Heathrow as I had read it was fantastic.
The upper class seats onboard were not quite as spectacular as I had anticipated. They are somewhat short when you lie down and there is a back at the end of the foot rest part, so you can't hang your feet over the end. I think Kenya Air business class seats are much better, but they are certainly better than any coach seats out there, which is my usual mode of transportation, so I was happy and content! The Virgin lounge at Heathrow on the other hand was MORE spectacular than I had anticipated. Inside the lounge are several restaurants with different types of food, as well as a bar and a full service spa including all of the usual amenities and services. You could have anything from a pedicure to a massage! There was an area with private showers and a hot tub, as well as a concierge service and a business center. And last but certainly not least was a Bumble and Bumble beauty salon! All services were complementary. I decided since I had so much time, to have breakfast, a nice long shower and then get my hair cut. Post shower and sporting my brand new sassy cut, I enjoyed updating facebook and emailing family and friends from the business center. I then relaxed and read my book and had a little nap. Then I had a glass of wine before boarding my flight to Johannesburg! I really enjoyed my day there, and sort of feel like this lounge could be a destination unto itself!
On to Africa!! I touched down in Johannesbug on schedule at 6:15am. First thing I noticed was the airport floor seemed different. It only took a few minutes to realize they had opened the new arrivals hall at JNB. They have been working on this for the last couple of years and the construction had just sort of become part of the backdrop. I guess I never really thought they would finish, but in anticipation of the 2010 FIFA World Cup, things are starting to happen! The new arrivals terminal is clean and colorful. It seemed very open and inviting. I really liked it and think it is a positive change. Customs was also very quick, a little more than normal, but I don’t know if that is due to the new arrivals hall and more officers or because I normally land in the late afternoon on Delta from Atlanta. It may be more crowded then. It didn’t take long to get my bearings and find my favorite cell phone shop to purchase my local SIM card, prior to boarding my short flight to Durban.
This was my first visit to Durban and I was very impressed! The airport was full of friendly people trying to help you get where you were supposed to be and helping with luggage. No one was asking for tips or pan handling, which was extremely impressive. There was also lots of evidence of the upcoming World Cup games next year. There was such hustle and bustle. I think the whole country is very excited to be part of it! I boarded the shuttle to the Hilton and after stopping at all of the other hotels, we ended up at the Hilton. I enjoyed seeing the other hotels and my minor city tour. I liked getting the lay of the land. En route, I was reminded of where I was, as I saw people bathing in the ditch beside the highway and homeless people asleep beside the road. I checked in and unpacked and had a shower. I had not slept much on the plane, so I ordered room service and a glass of wine and went to sleep!!
The next day I met my group and we were taken to see the new advertising campaign launched at Indaba for the World Cup 2010. I liked it and immediately wanted to learn to do the diski dance (and I am working on it now – hope to have it down before I go back next summer!) If you haven’t seen the commercial yet – have a look here. It’s quite catchy. 2010 TV commercial
I loved Indaba! It was held in the Durban Convention Center combined with the Durban Exhibition Center. These are very large, modern convention facilities and it was amazing. To be surrounded and immersed into 360 degrees of Africa!! Tourist boards from all countries, hotels, resorts, private game reserves, wineries, attractions, tour operators, transportation companies and more all here to promote tourism to Africa!!! I was drunk with excitement as I walked aisle by aisle through the maze of exhibitors meeting people. There were so many connections I wanted to make, to help me with future trip planning for clients to the area! I thoroughly enjoyed meeting people and learning more about the companies that I wasn’t familiar with. There were over 1700 exhibitors and I feel like I met every one of them! It was four days of non-stop meetings and events. It was also exciting to be in a place where everyone around me felt the same way I feel about Africa!
It is very rare that anyone can say they didn’t want a tradeshow to end, but that is exactly how I felt. I would love to attend again next year!
Next up Singita!