Travel Business News - Africa / Middle East.

 
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New York, Geneva (AirGuideBusiness - Travel Business News Africa / Middle East) Jun 16, 2013

Indaba 2013: Tourism and the Mandela Vision Indaba, the giant South African travel trade event, which took place last month, has an opening ceremony that takes place after the first dayOs business has been conducted on the trade show floor and a flurry of breakfasts, lunches, meetings, press conferences and activities have already taken place. Thousands of delegates descend upon the Durban International Convention Center (ICC) in Durban, South Africa, to walk aisles of colorful booths designed to arrest their attention. But the moment all that energy coalesces into a unified consciousness is during the opening ceremony when attendees gather into a cavernous auditorium in the ICC and experience an event so massive and rousing that itOs hard to imagine anyone remaining unmoved. Every year brings a new opening event, though they are similarly formatted, mixing speeches by tourism officials with big stage performances featuring dance troupes, singers and musicians, with elaborate choreography and orchestration and hyper-torqued energy. The performances represent such a high level of professionalism, sheer scale and exuberance that by the time they are over I feel as if I have gotten my moneyOs worth for the whole trip. The performances are on par with the best I have seen on any stage. And it is always pure Africa, a hot breath of solar energy on a scale so colossal that it seems to make the planet quiver. By the time people are filing out of the hall, if youOre not charged to the max with enthusiasm for Africa, you need to have your body checked for signs of life. There are many ways that Africa is without peer. No wildlife in the world compares to that found in Africa. No one challenges the claim that AfricaOs elephants, giraffes, antelope and big cats constitute the most spectacular pageantry of wildlife on earth. No one can dispute that Africa was the birthplace of human life; the source of most of the worldOs diamonds and gold; and the home of the Pyramids, the most eternal of human constructions. With its driving, complex polyrhythms, soaring melodies and spiritual depth, African music [ETH] either from Africa or from various points in the African diaspora [ETH] has led musical movements for a century. Indaba makes generous use of these elements at its opening ceremony. Huge video screens play sweeping cinematic portraits of AfricaOs diverse landscape, wildlife and people. The singers backed by vigorous, colorfully clad dancers and a live band left me nearly breathless. I found myself wondering, could World Travel Mart or ITB, the world's largest travel trade shows, possibly match this? Of course, they are global trade shows and Indaba is a concentrated dose of Africa alone. As a production of South African Tourism, Indaba focuses primarily on South Africa, and secondarily on all of Africa. It works because South Africa has so many of the elements of the rest of the continent. And because of its advanced infrastructure and accessibility, South Africa is a perfect entrance point to the continent for Americans. Indaba is the embodiment of African tourism, and a reflection of everything that is South Africa. It is impossible to separate the excitement that crackles in the air of Indaba from the energy of the young democracy, now entering its 20th year since its first free election. The countryOs population is still celebrating its release from the harsh system of apartheid. Of course, the new country has its share of difficulties as it rebuilds its society on a new foundation. But the great undertaking has been lifted on the wings of a dream, the vision of the Rainbow Nation put forth by Nelson Mandela. After serving 27 years in prison as a political prisoner, Mandela changed the course of events by advocating reconciliation not revenge. With his tremendous charisma and moral authority, he succeeded in getting the nation to sign on to his vision. One South African founder of a thriving tour operation told me things could have been very different. OWhen I was a young man, I was fiery and angry,O he said. OI got involved in violence and got into some trouble. I was ready to go further down that path. But when Nelson Mandela came out of prison and made a speech, it changed me. And it changed many other people the same way. Mandela changed the course of history with one speech.O It was a short and understated speech. Mandela closed with a quote from his own address from the dock of the Rivonia Trial in 1963, when he and others were accused of crimes against the state. OI have fought against white domination and I have fought against black domination,O he said. OI have cherished the ideal of a democratic and free society in which all persons live together in harmony and with equal opportunities. It is an ideal which I hope to live for and to achieve. But if needs be, it is an ideal for which I am prepared to die.O Indaba, the gathering point of South AfricaOs burgeoning tourism...

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