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Business Tourism Boost to SA Economy

Business tourists spend on average three times more than their leisure counterparts, which is why South Africa is going full steam ahead to secure major conferences and exhibitions.

James Vos MP, the Democratic Alliance’s shadow minister of tourism, said South Africa had collected two years of data and, based on the report produced in conjunction with Grant Thornton, the total direct spend for business events is estimated at R38.5 billion in 2014 and R42.4 billion in 2015.

Speaking to delegates attending HVS Consulting’s inaugural Tourism, Hotel Investment and Networking Conference, THINC Africa, in Cape Town, Vos said the country had over 1 000 world class conference and exhibition venues – and many golf courses too.

Vos said the business and events industry was at the centre of tourism growth and that it contributed enormously to the sector’s development as a generator of income, employment and investment.

Vos said in 2014 the international meetings, conference and exhibition industry supported some 267 660 direct and indirect annual job equivalents in South Africa and 280 555 in 2015.

“In addition to creating business opportunities, the Business Events Industry delivers enormous benefits to the broader economy as it generates higher economic impact, reduces seasonality and generates knowledge and enhances innovation and creativity,” he said.

Vos said South Africa’s National Conventions Bureau helped secure more international conferences, which was an excellent source of foreign tourists and revenue. The conference industry is in 38th place in the International Congress and Convention Association’s top-100 list of leading destinations in the world,” he added.

The South African business events industry – including the meetings, incentives, conferences and exhibition segments – has grown steadily over the last 10 years contributing towards the country’s tourist arrivals.

“In 2015 South Africa hosted 140 international association meetings and conferences which attracted just under 80 000 delegates to the country. These events generated 542 combined conference days and over R1 billion in economic impact for the country,” he said, adding that 108 of these conferences met the International Congress and Convention Association’s (ICCA) ranking criteria.

“SA was ranked 38th globally for 2015 and under to top 15 long haul destinations. This ranking ensured that South Africa remains the leading business events destination in Africa and the Middle East,” he said. “Cape Town has retained its ranking as the number one convention destination in Africa for the past 10 years, welcoming 270 000 delegates since 2006, with an average of four conference days per event.”

The Cape Town and Western Cape Convention bureau secured 17 bid wins for the destination during the 2015/16 financial year with a potential economic impact of R370 million to the local economy, said Vos. One of the business events secured was the World Ophthalmology Congress in 2020, hosting close 15 000 delegates over five conference days.

South Africa had already secured 66 international association conferences and meetings for the five years starting in 2017. “This represents guaranteed business for the country’s tourism and hospitality industry. These events will contribute about R1.4 billion in economic impact, attract 108 134 association professionals and generate 311 event days, benefiting all suppliers in the business events value chain,” said Vos.

“In addition we have 45 bids still pending, again planned to take place in the years to 2022. These events have the potential to attract 112 000 delegates over 216 days and can potentially contribute R1.5 billion to our economy.”

The South Africa National Convention Bureau (SANCB) subsidized 78 local business events, products and services, enabling them to exhibit on the four platforms including nine companies that qualified for the National Department of Tourism’s Tourism Incentive Programme. The SANCB generated 139 qualified leads from these trade shows that can potentially attract 92 000 delegates to South Africa and potentially generate R765 million for our economy.

Vos said SANCB, in conjunction with city and provincial convention bureaus, submitted 53 bids for international business events during the 2015-2016 financial year. “These business events have the potential to attract 86 000 delegates to the country, creating 242 combined conference days and generating a potential R1.2 billion in economic impact for South Africa.”

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