afrol News, 12 November - The hall housing African stands was constantly crowded during the World Trade Market (WTM) in London this week. Tasteful stands and modern design showed visitors a new a confident image of African destinations.
South Africa, having the largest stand in the African hall, took the lead in presenting Africa as a modern destination. In a PR scoop, South Africans marketed their country as a world-leading "astronomy and space tourism" destination.
"A number of hotel and other accommodation providers are already capitalising on the opportunity astronomy presents with telescopes in bedrooms and night safaris and tours on offer," South African representatives told surprised members of the press. Also, South Africa was "gearing up to play a major role in space exploration with the National Space Agency Act entering law last year," journalists were told.
The South African stand, where provinces and businesses presented their products, was designed into an almost industrial look in red and white, where visitors had to look closely to find references to the country's traditional safari products.
Among African business stands, especially South Africa's Sun Hotel chain was noted at the WTM. The expanding hotel chain used the London fair to announce its newest luxury hotel on Mauritius.
Almost the entire Southern African region was represented with own stands at the WTM, ranging from the large stands of Botswana, Namibia, Zambia and Mozambique, to the more modest stands of Malawi, Zimbabwe, Swaziland and Lesotho. Only Botswana and Namibia had designed their stands to emphasise their traditional safari products, both using desert colours to underline their countries' characteristic nature.
But also other Africa nations made a good show at the WTM. Rwanda and Uganda plaid the "friendly" card, with the crowded Rwandan stand making the most exotic and attractive impression in the hall. Marketing manager Joan Mazimhaka of the Rwanda Development Board, elegantly dressed up in traditional clothing, told afrol News that the Rwandan destination was picking up strongly and receiving much attention.
Uganda, like Rwanda, emphasised on its virgin forests and savannahs and gorilla populations. Uganda Wildlife overshadowed the Tourism Uganda agency at the stand, emphasising on the theme of this year's WTM, environmentally responsible tourism. Vanice Mirembe of Uganda Wildlife told afrol News that the WTM theme coincided with Uganda's tourism development vision at large.
Cape Verde, Ethiopia, Tanzania, Kenya and Ghana were also represented by large stands in the Africa hall, but the four countries' touris
The Seychelles stand and 50-persons strong delegation at the 2010 WTM in London
m authorities seemed to have underestimated public interest in their product as visitors constantly had to queue to get to talk to a country representative. Promotion director Isabel Duarte had run out of Cape Verde tourist maps already on Tuesday.
More modest stands were sustained by Senegal, The Gambia, Nigeria. Even Sierra Leone was present with a noticeable stand at the WTM, timely re-launching its destination and visibly achieving public interest.
Next to South Africa, North African destinations Egypt and Morocco had the largest and most impressive stands, with Egypt standing out with an eye-catching pharaohnic temple design. Also Tunisia and Libya had larger stands at the WTM, while Algeria was the only North African nation missing.
Interestingly, Madagascar, Mauritius and Seychelles were not found in the WTM's Africa hall, but in the "Asia, Pacific and Indian Ocean" hall. Especially Seychelles and Mauritius stood out with modern and delicate stands in this hall, where they faced harsh competition from other destinations such as India.
Mauritius representative Amrita Craig was running from one meeting to another, also seemingly having underestimated the attention her well-designed tropical terrace stand would get in a rainy and cold London. Ms Craig and her team used much of their marketing efforts to present Mauritius as a major golf destination, following the establishment of numerous golf clubs on the island.
Seychelles, making wide use of photos of its world-renown paradise beaches, used the occasion to re-launch its London tourist office at a great cocktail party held in central London. Tourism Board leader Alain St Ange told afrol News Seychelles had achieved large gains after launching its "Affordable Seychelles" campaign, combined with a efforts to promote "personalised tourism" and large-scale nature conservation schemes.
African destinations indeed were able to present a more modern outlook to the continent, where tropical luxury, up-to-date design and traditional nature-based tourism found its place. The London event mirrored Africa's tremendous growth as a tourist destination and the large public interest in Africa, especially among European travellers.
It was an optimistic African tourism industry that showed its best side in London. With a good reason: Africa is predicted to see the highest growth rates in world tourism also in the years to come.
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