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March 10, 2017

Sub-Saharan Africa: Tourism Minister Announces Bidding Fund

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Meetings Africa 2017 opened with some rousing announcements from Minister of Tourism Derek Hanekom on 28 February 2017 at the Sandton Convention Centre in Johannesburg.

As the premier trade show on the continent, Meetings Africa has pushed boundaries this year with the introduction of several new developments and a renewed focus on sustainability. Speaking to exhibitors, hosted buyers, MECs and media, South Africa’s Minister of Tourism, Derek Hanekom, broke down the importance of the business events industry’s contribution to Africa’s economy during the Opening Ceremony on 28 February 2017. 

Travel and tourism now contributes around 3.3% to Africa’s GDP and last year saw 58 million international tourist arrivals – an increase of 8% over 2015. Sub-Saharan Africa alone saw an 11% increase, with a gradual recovery in North Africa. According to the United Nations World Tourism Organisation, arrivals are set to grow by between 5 and 6% in 2017.

The business events sector is pivotal in bringing both tourism and opportunities to the continent. Minister Hanekom stressed the importance of relationship building and collaboration in this area, saying, “We are committed to working together with our colleagues in our sister countries to capture a greater share of international conferences and events…all of Africa will benefit from stronger regional relationships on the rest of the continent.” 

He went on to condemn the recent acts of xenophobia in Tshwane and Johannesburg, saying that tourism plays a big part in eradicating prejudice and bringing people together. “We will always welcome people from all over the world in our country.”

At the end of his opening address, Minister Hanekom brought some good news to the table. In last week’s Budget Speech, Finance Minister Pravin Gordhan announced that the Department of Tourism would be allocating an additional R494 million to promote tourism over the next three years.

“This allocation indicates our government’s confidence in the great potential of our sector to grow, to support more jobs, and small businesses, and to continue making such a meaningful contribution to our economy through our diverse value chain…we already have a vibrant, established local travel industry. Leisure tourism and the business events industry hold massive potential to play an even more meaningful role in the economic transformation of our country and our continent.”

As part of this additional allocation, the National Treasure has approved a Bidding Fund to help attract more business events to South Africa. “This ground-breaking fund will enable us to bid aggressively for international association conferences, meetings, incentives and exhibitions,” Minister Hanekom said. “Treasury has allocated R20 million for the next financial year (2017/18) and R90 million for the following three years for the Bidding Fund. This is fantastic news! The fund will be a catalyst that propels our business events industry to a higher league.”

The Department of Tourism hopes that this fund will enhance the country’s chances of winning the rights to host business events, and enable the National Convention Bureau to support bidding processes. “We have already identified African regional meetings and conferences as potential quick wins, and the Bidding Fund will give us the muscle to attract them.”

The Bidding Fund will focus on business events that are aligned with priority economic sectors that the government has identified for development, including manufacturing, mining and metals, business process outsourcing, creative industries, life sciences, and information and communication technology. It will also help boost delegate numbers at conferences and meetings that have already been secured. 

“Our research shows that delegates want to experience South Africa’s attractions before and after the events they attend here. So we want to entice them to come here earlier, stay longer and bring more people with them the experience our abundant tourism offerings,” Minister Hanekom said. “The new Bidding Fund will help us to attract these high-value business tourists, so it’s a giant step forward for our business events industry, and for tourism.”


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