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March 17, 2015

Sub-Saharan Africa: Exhibition Trends in Southern Africa (Part One)

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By Kim Muller

Much has been afoot in the global exhibitions industry of late. Millenials are being included in eventing research, hybrid events have been taking off, greening is prominent and technology has been adapted to suit and facilitate each sector. The Global Experience Specialists (GES) recently released their 2015 Trend Tracker, the fourth annual list of the top 50 trends impacting trade shows and events this year. Although some of these naturally do not affect or pertain to Africa’s way of doing business – or will not affect us for at least another year or so – there are gems of wisdom to be gleaned and used in our continent’s MICE industry.

As Liam Beattie, Managing Director of Hott 3D Exhibition Stands so wisely says, “In a South African context, one needs to understand that technology and ideas from abroad take time to filter down to a point where they are used regularly here. A combination of cost and also market fear of the unknown make the take-up in South Africa slow.”

Overall, despite sluggish growth in the sector in 2014, there seems to be much positivity about what the new year has in store. The Centre for Exhibition Industry Research (CEIR) recently posted their Index Report showing that for the 18th quarter in a row, the trade show industry saw an “overall uptick in growth in the fourth quarter of last year”. Although the growth was lower than the 2.3 percent of the third quarter of 2014, CEIR’s Economist Allen Shaw, Ph.D., said that “with the fourth quarter’s results and 18 consecutive quarters of growth and our predictions closely matching outcomes, we are confident in the continued growth and progress of the industry.”

Although this pertains mainly to the international industry, local industry leaders have all confirmed similar growth trends in the trade show sector. The Tourism Business Council of South Africa (TBCSA) recently posted their Tourrism Business Index report for the fourth quarter, which held both “sobering and exciting prospects for 2015”, according to Mmatšatši Ramawela, CEO of TBCSA. The 17th edition indicated that although the tourism industry performed almost in line with expectations, cost of inputs is still the most cited negative contribution to business performance in the accommodation sector, while insufficient overseas leisure demand and cost of labour make up other major negative factors. To combat this, Ramawela suggests looking towards the regional and domestic markets with growing middle-classes as attractive options in future. 

According to the GES white paper summary, marketers continue to harness “the incredible power of face-to-face marketing” through the use of brand experiences as part of their campaign strategies. Event and trade show programmes have begun to focus more on fully high-tech engagements – before, during and after the show in order to create stronger personal experiences for delegates. The GES Trend Tracker summarised its findings under four main banners: Budgeting and Planning, Marketing, Technology and Design. As such, we’ll be delving into those four subjects to find out just how they affect our business events economy and how we can further effect change in the industry, too. 

Keep an eye on International Meetings Review for details of the four main banners in the coming days...


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