South Africa Emphasizes MICE Initiatives, Celebrates Milestones
During the second day of EIBTM in Barcelona, several heads of South Africa’s travel scene gathered to point out how the country’s meetings and events have improved over the last 20 years, and how the country has become a hub of development for the entire continent.
South African Tourism, the official destination marketing organisation of South Africa, celebrated the tenth anniversary of Meetings Africa, an event dedicated to showcasing Africa’s MICE services and products.
South African Tourism CEO Thulani Nzima began the presentation noting that when EIBTM asked more than 300 North and South American travel buyers what destinations were in their “crystal balls” for as-yet unbooked events, South Africa came in at number five for the entire world, and only one percentage point behind the fourth-place winner, France.
“Last year, South Africa hosted 118 meetings that met the ICCA’s criteria (up from 97 in 2012) marking a significant 18 percent improvement in this regard,” Nzima said. “The 118 meetings brought over 94,000 association professionals to South Africa and contributed an estimated 1.5 billion rand to our economy. Our event pipeline going forward continues to look extremely positive. We already have 143 association conferences and events confirmed between now and 2017,” Nzima added.
Another notable achievement for Africa’s MICE scene was the election of Nina Freysen-Pretorius as President of the International Congress and Convention Association (ICCA) as well Amanda Kotze-Nhlapo (the Chief Conventions Bureau Officer at the SANCB) as the Geographical Representative for Africa to the ICCA Board.
“Having two South Africans on the ICCA Board, one at the helm, is a major boost for South Africa’s reputation as a business events destination,” Nzima said. “As the first African president of ICCA, Nina’s appointment marks a major milestone on the road to establishing Africa as a business events destination of choice.”
Kotze-Nhlapo, for her part, noted that South Africa has seen a huge increase in inbound business over the last 20 years. In 1994, the country did not have any large-scale convention centers. Today, it has seven, and has hosted numerous international conferences, including the World Summit on Sustainable Development and the World Conference against Racism.
In 2011, Durban hosted the Cop 17 conference, Nzima noted, which brought multiple heads of state together in one city. “It demanded high security,” Nzima said during the conference. “VIPs needed presidential suites in hotels, they had bodyguards, we had to block roads when they were traveling--and yet, we could do that.” In 2016, Durban will once again host the 21st Annual AIDS Conference, having previously hosted the 2000 edition of the event. “We can attract an event of that magnide back,” Nzima said, estimating that 20,000 attendees would be there.
“We don’t have many challenges except for perceptions,” he continued. “It is important that we embrace Africa together...If there are [worries], we can lift Africa together. We are doing our best to be part of that.”
One of those worries would be fears generated by the Ebola epidemic in Western Africa, which IMR noted previously is very far away from South Africa. “Ebola will be damaging to the world,” Nzima said bluntly. “It is becoming a global challenge.” For South Africa, perception is once again a significant hurdle--even though the country has not seen a single case of Ebola. In comparison, Spain, Germany and the United States have all had confirmed cases of the lethal virus, but have not seen a decline in tourism because of them. South Africa, meanwhile, has numerous security systems in place to detect anyone with symptoms of the virus. “It has affected us,” Nzima said, “because the reality is not about cancellations, but missed opportunities to book because people think whole continent is affected. We will see the effects in forward bookings and for months to come.”
The tenth edition of Meetings Africa, hosted by the SANCB (a business unit of South African Tourism) is taking place at the Sandton Convention Centre, in Johannesburg from February 23 to 25, 2015. Meetings Africa is the primary and most important platform, facilitating the growth of Africa in the business events market. The show will continue with its theme; Advancing Africa Together and the first day has been reserved for a number of workshops and seminars, dedicated towards driving the industry forward in the region.
To organize an event in South Africa, reach out to Brandon Clifford (+27 11 895 3108), senior manager, meeting and convention sales for the South Africa National Convention Bureau.