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January 22, 2019

Sub-Saharan Africa: Fancy a Conference with your Flight?

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Your flight is in 3 hours, but there’s that one important client that you still need to see. Do you rush over to their offices and risk missing your flight? Or do they come to you? In a fast-paced world where face-to-face meets are still the order of the day (no matter what Gen Z says) there’s nothing more convenient than hosting a small conference or business meeting at hotels that are in close proximity to airports. Not only are they nearby, but they also offer versatility, and when called upon, a last minute place to lay your head down in both comfort and style.

One such venue that has constantly been innovating in this space is Birchwood Hotel and OR Tambo Conference Centre. According to Commercial Director Lloyd Marshall, they are regularly upgrading and adapting their offering based on feedback and needs of business travellers. “We are able to cater to small and large groups in both conference venues and accommodation. We also offer added convenience selection of four onsite restaurants, free and fast Wi-Fi, a gym, a Mangwanani Spa, transport on the grounds and free shuttles to and from the airport and the East Rand Mall every hour,” he adds.

The hotel has over 60 different meeting venues on their 53 hectares of ground, allowing them to cater to multiple gatherings of various sizes – on average at least 100 a year. “We have unique spaces for meetings, conferences, exhibitions, banquets and training, and can accommodate anything from as little as two and up to 3 000 people in just about any seating style.” They recently hosted an event for Makro that included a 3 000m2 exhibition as well as a beautiful outdoor evening in their gardens. They also played host to the Airports Company South Africa’s awards evening for over 500 delegates, complete with a live satellite link to events in other provinces.

Another venue making waves on the conservation front is Hotel Verde, located adjacent to the Cape Town International Airport. It is the first hotel in Africa to offer high-end carbon-neutral accommodation, and conferencing with minimal environmental impact. Their largest space can hold up to 124 pax cinema-style, and their conference packages allow companies to offset between 49.24kg (half-day) or 98.48kg (full-day) of carbon, confirmed by an auditable certificate that can be used in sustainability reports.

Some of the energy efficiencies include wind turbines, LED lighting, and regenerative drive elevators. Hotel Verde also has sustainability built into its design, such as counter tops containing recycled content, an optimised building energy model, cobiax void formers, and carpets with high percentages of rapidly renewable wool. They naturally use a grey water recycling system, dual flush toilets and collect rainwater, among other water-saving techniques. Guests can also earn Verdinos – an in-house currency rewarding visitors for their involvement in the hotel’s sustainability and in making green choices. One Verdino is equivalent to R5.

Step off your plane and into your meeting at OR Tambo with InterContinental. The hotel has seven flexible boardrooms, two conference rooms, and can accommodate up to 80 guests. In addition to their ability to cater to any type of event, the conference centre is also open seven days a week, and 24 hours a day, with a dedicated Event Planner on call.

Another venue of convenience is Premier Hotel OR Tambo, located just 500m from the Rhodesfield Gautrain station and 1.2km from the airport. The hotel offers 8 multi-functional conference rooms for between 10 and 800 delegates, as well as 275 comfortable rooms, a wellness spa and a poolside restaurant.

Adapting for the Business Traveller

According to the South Africa National Convention Bureau, the country hosts around 1 million delegates each year, supporting over 250 000 jobs both directly and indirectly. In 2017, the industry contributed R115 billion in total annual GDP – 9.4% of the country’s GDP. Naturally airport meeting venues play a role in this thanks to their proximity and ability to host world class events, although it is hard to quantify says Birchwood’s Lloyd Marshall. “Business tourism is essential to the sustenance and growth of the country’s economy, which is why we believe customer feedback is one of the most important aspects in the hospitality and conferencing sectors,” he explains, “Every year we analyse feedback and engage with both local and international guests as to what their needs are. We then sit down as a team and adapt our offering accordingly, ensuring that we never fall behind and that our guests’ stay is convenient, comfortable and impressionable.”

The modern traveller is more tech savvy than ever before, and these days connectivity and AV capabilities are must-haves. “To adapt to this requirement, we now offer free uncapped Wi-Fi, have updated our signage to digital, and have enhanced our audio-visual systems with touch screens and built-in video conferencing kits.” Other examples are free shuttle services to and from the airport, free on-site transportation, and upgrades to their restaurants, conference venues and accommodation offerings. “Development is never stagnant at Birchwood,” Marshall says.

Additional Airport Meeting Facilities in Cape Town

- Zenith Airport Conference Venue
- Mbalentle Guesthouse
- GrandWest City Lodge or Grand Hotel
- Vineyard Hotel

Additional Airport Meeting Facilities in Johannesburg

- Africa Centre Airports Leisure Hotel
- Airport Grand Hotel
- Garden Court Joburg International Airport
- Pembi OR Tambo Conference Centre
- Protea Hotel by Marriott Transit OR Tambo
- Southern Sun OR Tambo

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