Posted by Ric Garrido

On the third day at ITB Berlin 2013 I explored Africa. My earlier post is ITB Berlin 2013–travel the world in a day, yet it took me three days  touring the massive Berlin Messe exhibit halls to actually find myself in the heart of Africa. And Africa tourism turned out to be one of the best experiences of the entire convention.

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South African Ndebele artist.

Many of the African countries had artisans creating local crafts on the spot. Most of these booths offered their products for sale.

As I am exposed more to the business side of the tourism industry, the work of PR firms is more apparent. Most countries and regions have a tag line. Seeing thousands of tourism exhibitors revealed these taglines are generally three words.

South Africa’s is “Inspiring New Ways”.

Mozambique is “The fascinating destination”.

Africa’s exhibitor hall was filled with safari tourism operators and resort lodges.

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The government sponsored tourism booths were the ones that tended to have artisans and local food products on display.

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Eritrea tourism representatives.

Here is a current report from a Norwegian travel columnist about visiting Eritrea as a tourist destination unheard of. Paperwork sounds like a hassle, but the locals’ fondness for beer drinking makes it sound like I might be a good fit with local society.

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Rwanda artisan decorating baskets.

Repiublic of South Sudan There was even an exhibit booth from South Sudan, the newest political country on Earth. The representative did not understand my English too well as I tried to tell her about a Radisson Hotel Nashville Airport employee originally from South Sudan who was recognized as ‘employee of the year’ at the Carlson Rezidor Hotel Group Global Business Conference in Chicago last month.

I was honored when she gave me three  postcards with pictures of giraffes, rhinos and African buffalo imprinted with the words Republic of South Sudan.

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Those three postcards are my most precious takeaway from ITB Berlin 2013.

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The Republic of South Sudan.

The World Conservation Society is working in South Sudan to protect one of the world’s largest wildlife populations with an annual migration of 1.3 million antelope in a country with only 7 million people. Herds of giraffes still roam the landscape.

Burundi has the tagline “The beating heart of Africa” and the exhibit contained several huts and locals constantly beating sticks and drums.

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A quick check of wikipedia reveals Burundi is one of the five poorest nation’s of the world and drumming is a major part of local culture. The place sounds like it is more of a location for humanitarian aid workers than tourists. Years of civil war has recently ceased and the economy is in ruins. This is why tourism is a vital opportunity for economic growth in developing nations.

Low literacy rates in the 60 to 70 percentile and low health care access makes Burundi the kind of location ripe for voluntourism.

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Mali “Authentic Africa”

Timbuktu has  appealed to me as a tourist destination for a decade or more. Civil war and fighting in Timbuktu in the past year makes that opportunity remote at the present time.

Several years ago I read about the Festival in the Desert in Mali and thought that would be a great excuse for visiting Timbuktu. War has brought the Festival in the Desert to a halt for 2013. Bono from U2 and 350 foreigners arrived in 2012 for the concert despite security warnings, but currently the situation is too dangerous for travelers and the festival has been canceled for 2013.

Uganda has the tagline “The Pearl of Africa” and they had a large exhibit. Gorillas are a major wildlife attraction.

There was generally a crowd around the Uganda exhibit to experience the music and dancers.

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