JOHANNESBURG, Feb 21 – Barely six months after exceeding most people’s expectations and successfully hosting the FIFA 2010 World Cup, South Africa is now looking to further enhance business tourism as the country seeks to diversify its available products.
The country is looking to leverage on the success of the World Cup and build on the awareness that was created during the tournament to position itself as a top, world class business tourism destination.
This is working towards their favour, with the Minister of Tourism and Head of South African Tourism Marthinus van Schalkwyk reporting that they have already secured 200 conferences that will be hosted in the country in the next five years.
“That’s translate into 300,000 delegates that we will be hosting but most importantly, it translates into 1.6billion Rands (Sh16billion) to this economy,” he said while opening the ‘Meetings Africa 2011’.
Through the event which is in its eighth year, South Africa showcases the variety of services and products on offer in the major meetings, conferences and exhibitions industry as well as the country’s infrastructural and organisational capacity to host the major events.
In 2009, South Africa hosted about 500,000 business tourists which represented approximately five percent of the total tourists’ arrivals and earned the country R4billion (Sh40billion).
According to a report by the International Congress and Convention Association (ICCA), South Africa accounted for 28.5 percent of the 315 meetings that were held in Africa during the year, which placed the country first in the continent and 34th globally.
While the figures for 2010 have not yet been released, there are expectations that this figure was surpassed last year given the interest that South Africa generated when it became the first African country to host the global football event.
“Tourism is a major jobs driver and we are sure that working together with our partners, we are going to achieve the aims that we set out for ourselves,” Mr Schalkwyk said of the sector that contributed an estimated 7.7 percent to South Africa’s Gross Domestic Product in 2010.
South African Tourism Global Manager for Business Tourism Nomasonto Ndlovu told Capital Business that they target to grow this segment from the current five percent to 10 percent.
To achieve this, she said they continually market the country by having their agents in different parts of the world whose duty is to identify new and potential meeting planners and international buyers, give them information about South Africa and then give the feedback to their home office to facilitate the bidding process.
While pointing out that there were about 3,000 international hosted buyers, overall visitors and exhibitors who are attending the three-day meeting, Ms Ndlovu added that they were not only interested in growing the number of visitors but also getting high quality ones as well.
Business tourists for instance spent an average of R5 300 (Sh53,000) during their stay in South Africa in 2009 while the average length of stay increased from 4.6 nights in 2008 to 4.8 nights in 2009.
“We never really want to say that we want to grow the number of the buyers per se. but we want the people who come here to be bringing more business because one buyer could be having the potential of 10 meetings to come to South Africa so in the end, it is really about the quality of the people,” the manager of the agency responsible for the marketing the country added.
She reckoned that if they are able to attain this goal, the whole African continent would benefit.
‘Meetings Africa’ for example is the only Meetings, Incentives, Conferences and Exhibitions (MICE) platform in Africa and Ms Ndlovu opined that the rest of the continent should start to recognise and take advantage of this event to grow business tourism in their countries.
“If South Africa wins, we all in because once people are here, they want to see Maasai Mara so the post-conference talk could potentially be in another part of Africa,” Ms Ndlovu concluded.
Follow the author at https://twitter.com/cirunjoroge