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South Africa Aims To Attract More Business Events

Barcelona, Spain: At IBTM World on Tuesday, South Africa’s Deputy Minister of Tourism, Elizabeth Thabethe, announced a “bold and ambitious” delegate-boosting plan as part of a Bidding Support Programme to propel the country’s business events industry forward.

IBTM World, a leading global event for the meetings, incentives, conferences, events and business travel industry, is taking place in Barcelona from 28 to 30 November 2017.

The South African National Convention Bureau (SANCB), a business unit of South African Tourism, is at IBTM to emphasize that South Africa – and Africa – is “open for business and on an accelerated drive to increase our share of the global business events pie,” Ms. Thabethe told a press conference in Barcelona this week.

This drive entails bringing more high-value business events delegates to South Africa, aiding economic growth and sustaining much-needed jobs throughout the broader tourism economy, Ms Thabethe explained. This is beside the contribution such events make to the local knowledge economy, she noted.

Announcing the results of a three-year study into South Africa’s business events industry, Ms Thabethe said South Africa hosts about a million business delegates every year and that the local events industry sustains more than 250 000 jobs, directly and indirectly.

She revealed that the business events industry contributes about R115 billion to South Africa’s gross domestic product every year.

“This research proves what our industry has always suspected – that South Africa’s business events industry contributes significantly to our broader tourism economy,” Ms Thabethe told the assembled media.

Importantly, she added, the study shows that delegates have an appetite to experience South Africa’s leisure attractions and that most have the disposable income to enjoy an extended holiday add-on to their business trip.

“Armed with this research, we want to entice business events delegates to come to South Africa, stay for longer and bring people with them,” she said.

“To help achieve this tourism growth, the South African government has allocated R90 million for a Bidding Support Programme to enable South Africa to bid more aggressively for international association conferences, meetings, incentives and exhibitions over the next three years. This grant will give South Africa ‘extra muscle’ to lobby for and attract big-ticket events,” Ms Thabethe said.

The country is already widely regarded as a “go-to” destination for hosting international conferences, particularly in the medical and scientific field – last year’s International Aids Conference being a case in point.

“Such high-profile events are putting South Africa on the map as an exciting and cost-effective option for meetings, incentives, conventions and exhibitions. We have all the infrastructure, technical capacity, expertise and experience that’s needed, not to mention extremely welcome, service-oriented and capable people.” But more needs to be done for the country’s business events sector to reach its full potential, she said.

Hence the need for the Bidding Support Programme. As part of this, the SANCB is spearheading a global delegate-boosting campaign, targeting members of the association conferences that are already confirmed to take place in South Africa over the next five years.

“We have already started reaping the rewards of this fund,” Ms Thabethe said, revealing that since April the SANCB had submitted 54 bids that could potentially contribute R1.6 billion to the economy, attract 57 660 delegates and generate more than 214 combined conference days.

She noted that each time a blue-chip international event was hosted in South Africa, it not only added to the country’s prestige – “it also delivers important socio-economic benefits to our people, which is why Africa is the best place to bring your next business event, meeting or conference”.

South Africa has about 40 exhibitors taking part in this year’s IBTM World, ranging from city and provincial convention bureaus and destination management companies to tour operators, hotels and guest lodges. This includes eight small tourism businesses that are being hosted by the National Department of Tourism as part of its Market Access Programme. This programme seeks to broaden the variety of tourism products on the market while helping small enterprises (especially black-owned businesses) get “market-ready” for international tourists.

The South African SMMEs being showcased at IBTM 2017 are MK Tours and Travel; Giltedge DMC; Aqua Tours and Transfers; The Conference Company, Nongoma Lodge & Inn, and La Teranga Bed & Breakfast; Casambo Exclusive Guest Lodge; and Drifters Raceway Theme Park.

Meetings Africa, Africa’s premier business events travel trade show, takes place at the Sandton Convention Centre in Johannesburg, South Africa, from 26 to 28 February 2018. Visit www.meetingsafrica.co.za for more details.