The ninth annual SAYTC Youth Travel Conference was held in the awe-inspiring Northern Drakensberg mountains in Kwa-Zulu Natal (KZN) province in 2016 – as ever, in the spirit of benefiting local communities and giving members exposure to important destinations and attractions, off the beaten track. The venue was chosen through an exciting process, whereby a few SAYTC KZN members submitted bids to host the conference in their respective areas, voted on by their fellow regional members. Amphitheatre Backpackers Lodge, where the conference and activities all took place, looks directly onto the façade of the majestic “Amphiteatre”, one of the world’s most impressive cliff faces.

The aims of the SAYTC Conference

  • Showcase the Unrivalled Diversity and beauty of KZN
  • Have FUN!!
  • Network members with each other.
  • Form long lasting relationships, both professionally and socially.
  • Get maximum participation from all our members from all over South Africa.
  • Have informative and industry-related activites, topics and speakers.
  • Have open forum discussions about pertinent issues.
  • Experience KZN, its unrivalled diversity and encourage delegates to further their stay in the province by doing pre and post activities/tours

This year’s theme

“Unrivalled Diversity” – a theme our Kwa-Zulu Natal members feel especially passionate about. And rightly so; KZN province offers a myriad of attractions and experiences for visitors! In fact, the planning committee are so proudly-KZN, that 99% of the programme featured KZN based speakers. And to top it off, this conference doubled as a mini music festival, featuring live KZN based acts exclusively. Amphitheatre was the perfect venue, as they are accustomed to and well known for hosting large music festivals on an annual basis and the expanse of outdoor space made it extra special.

Registration & 0pening Party – Tuesday, 6th September

Registration and the opening party took place at Amphitheatre Backpackers Lodge, where the conference and all events and activities would be also.

Activities for early arrivals

  • Emazizini Village walk, Sangoma, Shebeen, Kraal & Rural Home visit
  • Round of Golf – R140 p/p (Contact Patrick from Thekweni)
  • Self guided walk through the scenic area
  • All Out Adventures – King swing, zipline, trapeze
  • Various mountain bike trails to explore

The evening’s entertainment included a craft beer tasting by 031 Distillery, a unique and dynamic opening/welcome by Africa Ignite storytellers (including a short ‘history of SAYTC), a ‘Berg and Bush’ themed opening dinner and live music from the very talented Brandon Lee, Vukazithathe & George Daniel.

Day 1 – Wednesday, 7th September

After a welcome by SAYTC’s esteemed Chairman and hilarious MC, Gavin Eyre, the delegates were ready for the first speaker from Africa Ignite – Wilna Botha, followed by Tracey Ruggier – It’s Not Made in China. After tea, the delegates had the opportunity to hear from James Seymore, representing the local tourism body – TKZN. Paula Thomson – Woza Moya, followed suit.

The second half of the day was packed with inspiring and dynamic speakers – the delegates certainly got a generous dose of information and motivation with Dionne Collette – Take Note Management, John Parkin – Buffelsdraai, Kai Schultz – Karkloof Canopy Tours and motivational speaker, ending with Divashen Govender – Mars One, who had everyone riveted in their seats as he described his journey to becoming one of those shortlisted by the Mars One organisation to land the first humans on Mars and establish a permanent human colony there by 2025!

The day ended perfectly with a chilled ‘Beach Buzz’ themed dinner and live performances by Inkhonjane and The Kickstands, with DJ Bhashkar keeping the party fit on the dancefloor well into the wee hours of the morning (4am to be exact!) – shaking their mama’s gave them!

Day 2 – Thursday, 8th September

With the delegates really feeling it after the epic evening – and early morning – before, the AGM took place bright and early.

After tea, Thekiso Rakolojane & Lee-Anne Bac – Tourism Grading Council and Briony Leigh Smith –a Whole World in Once Province (an interactive presentation speaking to the theme of Unrivalled Diversity), warmed the delegates well up for our very own Minister of Tourism, Derek Hanekom! Many present had heard from the Minister last in his keynote address at our 2014 conference. As ever, he is a firm supporter of our sector and a more down to earth and authentic style of travel that our members offer. This was followed by a Q & A session with an emphasis on finding solutions – what Derek Hanekom is known for.

After lunch, the delegates got involved in a series of interactive activities, namely:

  • Zyakhipha!
  • Curry in a Hurry
  • Seed planting – from the delegates’ name badges, which contained seeds!
  • Recycle Repurpose

The final and gala ‘Beads and Buckskin’ themed dinner was all set to take place in the beautiful outdoor entertainment area the previous two dinners had taken place but, in true SAYTC style, something that you would normally only see in a movie took place – a dust devil cut through and took down the entire tent! But that didn’t dampen anyone’s spirits for long, we are known for taking things in our stride in this sector and seeing the funny side (thankfully no one was injured)! While waiting for the meal to be moved indoors, Gavin did the auction, which was pretty hair-raising and successful. The conference played out (literally) with performances from Amhilo & Storm, Quadasi and Veranda Panda.

Thank you

In closing, BIG thank yous must go all our mini sponsors:

  • African Insight
  • Around About Cars
  • Atlantic Point / Imagine Travel
  • Bannister Hotel
  • Big Rush
  • ECDC
  • Green Elephant Backpackers
  • Hotspots2C
  • Island Vibe
  • Monzi Safaris
  • Once in CT
  • Wine Flies & Little Big Wines

And the conference of course did not happen without the help of the following people:

  • SAYTC’s hard working staff
  • Gavin, the driven Chairman and hilarious MC
  • The KZN conference planning committee; with special thanks to Michelle, Tracey, Henre and Patrick

All those who sponsored prizes for the auction:

  • African Insight
  • Amphitheatre Backpackers
  • Around About Cars
  • Baz Bus
  • Big Rush
  • ECDC
  • Face Adrenalin
  • Happy Hippo Backpackers
  • Marine Dynamics
  • Monzi Safaris
  • Wine Flies Wine Tours

Most of all, we have to thank our amazing members. We can safely say that it’s worth every drop of effort just so that we can get you all in one place for a few days to learn something valuable, exchange ideas, and generally have a wonderful time together!

2016 Drakensberg – Unrivalled Diversity