The gloves have come off in the rivalry between Africa’s old and new trade shows – the long-established Tourism Indaba in Durban, run by South Africa Tourism – and the new Africa Travel Week, operating under the ownership of Thebe Reed Exhibitions Group.
South African Tourism Update newswire was told that SA Tourism took the decision to ban Thebe Reed representatives from this week’s Meetings Africa trade show in Johannesburg in light of their attempted “ambush marketing” at the show.
Thebe Reed accused SA Tourism of employing “bullying tactics” to squeeze out competition.
Tourism Update linked the spat to two events that took place on February 24, the day before Thebe Reed were stopped from entering the show.
The first took place during an Meetings Africa (ICCA) workshop where Carol Weaving, MD of Thebe Reed Exhibitions Group, used her speech to promote the upcoming IBTM Africa exhibition that forms part of Africa Travel Week taking place in Cape Town in May.
The second was a cocktail event hosted by IBTM Africa at a venue directly adjacent to the Sandton Convention Centre where Meetings Africa is being held.
The timing of the function clashed with Meetings Africa’s gala dinner networking event.
Sugen Pillay, business development director at Thebe Reed, called the decision to ban his team “short-sighted”, adding, “SA Tourism has opened itself up to criticism through its use of bullying tactics”.
He said that as a national tourism association, SA Tourism should support all events that promoted the destination.
But SA Tourism CEO, Thulani Nzima, said the decision had nothing to do with anti-competitive behaviour. “It boils down to the fact that we should respect each other’s place in the market – we have never abused Reed’s platforms and we expect them to do the same for us. This is ambush marketing and deliberate misuse of our platform,” he said.
“They have used the fact that they are an exhibition company to walk the floor with a sales team openly coercing people,” said Nzima.
“We understand that Reed’s show will help promote our country, but we are already at an event where we are promoting the country and we don’t want exhibitors to be distracted from their main purpose of being at Meetings Africa – which is to meet buyers.”
Nzima said he hoped he would able to talk to senior management at Thebe Reed to find a solution as it is “not worth an adversarial relationship”.