Saturday, May 30, 2009

Prince Albert Shines at Indaba 2009

“Prince Albert will benefit 100 times more than we could ever imagine as a result of its participation at this year’s Tourism Indaba in Durban.” This is the view of Michael Upton, Prince Albert Tourism EXCO member who represented the town at one of Africa’s largest tourism marketing events from 8 to 12 May. Johannes Jonkers, the Central Karoo’s Regional Tourism Officer, agrees with Michael’s enthusiasm: “Prince Albert and the other towns of the Central Karoo that were at Indaba – their products, diversity of landscapes and cultural heritage – swept away the ignorance of where and who we are and what we offer.”

Indaba is one of the top three travel trade shows in the world and is a showcase for Southern African tourism products and services for the international travel trade. It draws travel agents from far and wide, conference organisers, tour operators, advertisers and the media. More than 12 000 people participated in Indaba this year despite the global economic crisis.

Michael Upton returned to Prince Albert inspired by Indaba 2009 and determined that the town should be there again next year. He felt that it was vital that the Prince Albert be marketed as part of the Central or Cape Karoo at such an event where smaller exhibitors tend to be overlooked. “I know that some Prince Alberters are against more business activity and more tourists and I understand that,” Michael told the Friend. “But, tourism offers so many possibilities to so many people in our town; it creates employment, not only in the tourism sector and offers skills to those who hold the future of our town in their hands.”

Prince Albert with Beaufort West, Laingsburg, Murraysburg and Matjiesfontein represented Cape Karoo Tourism at Indaba 2009. The region’s stall, sponsored by the Central Karoo Regional Tourism Office, was part of the huge Western Cape tourism exhibition. According to Michael, the Cape Karoo Tourism stand was very much a joint effort, with each town contributing decorative elements, local products and information against a backdrop of eye-catching, life-size posters depicting the different areas of the Central Karoo.

“But Prince Albert shone like a shining star, we stole the show; tour operators, South African and international, who came to sell their products, bought ours instead,” Michael said. “They were astounded that a “desert” offered breathtaking scenery and snow on the mountain tops in winter and they swarmed to our stall to taste our wines, cheeses, fruits, olive products, and to learn more about the farming community, the history of the town and its surrounds, and the activities we offer.”

A journalist with British Airways’ in-flight magazine, Horizon, was instructed by her editor to visit the Cape Karoo Tourism stall as preparation for an article on Prince Albert, while West Coast travel agents want the stand – as it was set up at Indaba - to tour the main towns along the coast. Many tour operators were particularly keen to discover that the Central Karoo is an ideal destination during South Africa’s winter months, when it is drizzling and grey on the Cape coastal areas.

Prince Albert’s reputation as an out of the ordinary tourism destination was also strengthened by the participation of the town’s new recreational cooking school, African Relish, at Indaba 2009. Jeremy Freemantle, CEO and executive chef, Vanie Padayachee, worked long hours promoting their new culinary tourism experience to international tour operators. Both were very encouraged at the huge interest in South African tourism products. “We’re excited about drawing tourists to Prince Albert throughout the year and that will undoubtedly contribute to the people and the economy of our town,” Jeremy told the Friend.

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