Tourism Indaba paints rosy picture of Mzansi

As always, the organisation of the Tourism Indaba was excellent.

As always, the organisation of the Tourism Indaba was excellent.

The Durban weather and the atmosphere were great. Moeketsi Mosola and his team at South African Tourism had outdone themselves and the industry loved it.

The Tourism Indaba is a yearly event aimed at the promotion of tourism products and numbers of tour operators attending from overseas have been growing over the years.

This time the Indaba focused on the country's preparations for the World Cup and over 5000 operators and 700 journalists descended on Durban for the three days of fun and powwow.

Sunday was dominated by an event called "media face-off".

It was chaired by Finnoulla Sweeny of CNN and addressed by Deputy Finance Minister Jabu Moleketi and the chief executive of the Organising Committee, Danny Jordaan.

The predominantly foreign media and operators were so impressed with the update they were provided that more than 70 percent of those attending said they were encouraged by our state of preparedness.

What I think we need to know as South Africans is that tourism continues to grow in leaps and bounds and we learn that more and more entrepreneurs are making investments that have contributed to 60 000 new jobs being created in the past year.

One such entrepreneur is Lebo Malepa who was barely a toddler in 1976, but he was first runner-up in the 2007 Emerging Tourism Entrepreneur of the Year awards with Lebo's Soweto Backpackers.

The young man gave a great performance as promoter of opportunities in the sector.

These opportunities are increasing and are underpinned by the fact that the number of visitors to South Africa is expected to increase from the current 9,4 million this year to more than 10 million by 2010.

Of even greater interest to the World Cup Organising Committee is that Match, the agency providing accommodation, IT and hospitality services to Fifa, has contracted 33000 accommodation providers and about 5000 of these are the smaller bed and breakfast establishments.

I am very pleased that the smaller operators are getting a slice of the action and I learn that in order for a B&B to be included in the contract mix they have to be graded by the Grading Council of South Africa, meaning that if you operate one, get in touch with the council.

Some universities and colleges are also negotiating with Match to provide accommodation during the World Cup.

They have made 10 000 rooms available. So seize the moment.

Another heart-warming event took place on Saturday when the Minister of Education Naledi Pandor, Deputy-Minister of Sport and Recreation Gert Oosthuizen, Chairman of the Organising Committee Irvin Khoza and the SABC representative, Phumelele Ntombela-Ndzimande, annnounced a South African Schools World Cup partnership in Soweto.

This programme will be rolled out over two years and will involve school children at all levels across the country.

Children will take part in football tournaments, essay writing and art competitions, and other activities.

More than 1000 schools have been registered for this programme and already some of the embassies have indicated an interest in supporting the underprivileged schools taking part in the programme.

As Minister Pandor said: "The World Cup in 2010 will not be a success unless it touches and makes a meaningful contribution to the lives of millions of South African children."

Khoza said: "The programmes of this partnership offer South Africa and the continent of Africa the opportunity to provide content to the bold claim that the time has come for the world to celebrate Africa's humanity."

Well said!