Elizabeth Thabethe, South Africa’s newly appointed Deputy Minister of Tourism, is a firm believer in “bleisure” travel—the combination of business and leisure travel. Now she wants delegates to do the same when they come to South Africa, as part of an initiative to draw more delegates and events to South Africa.
Tell us about the three-year study into the economic impact of South Africa’s business events industry recently commissioned by South African National Convention Bureau (SANCB).
We found that South Africa hosts about a million business delegates every year and that the local events industry sustains more than 250 000 jobs, directly and indirectly, and that the business events industry contributes about R115 billion to South Africa’s gross domestic product every year.
What is also interesting is that, the study shows that 30% of delegates will travel around before or after their event, usually for 3.5 days on average, and half of the delegates will bring at least one other person with them.
What do these findings mean?
It means that South Africa’s business events industry contributes significantly to our broader tourism economy, that delegates have an appetite to experience South Africa’s leisure attractions and that most have the disposable income to enjoy an extended holiday add-on to their business trip. Therefore, we want to entice delegates to come to South Africa, stay for longer and bring people with them.
What about the Bidding Support Programme? What does it do?
The South African government has invested R90 million in the Programme to enable South Africa to bid more aggressively for international association conferences, meetings, incentives and exhibitions over the next three years. This grant will give South Africa “extra muscle” to lobby for and attract big-ticket events.
As part of this, the SANCB is spearheading a global delegate-boosting campaign targeting members of the association conferences that are already confirmed to take place in South Africa over the next five years. Since April, the SANCB had submitted 54 bids that could potentially contribute R1.6 billion to the economy, attract 57, 660 delegates and generate more than 214 combined conference days.
What events does South Africa attract the most?
The country is already widely regarded as a “go-to” destination for hosting international conferences, particularly in the medical and scientific fields. Last year our coastal city of Durban hosted the 21st International Aids Conference, bringing together an impressive 22,000 people from 153 countries.
Meetings Africa, Africa’s premier business events travel trade show, takes place at the Sandton Convention Centre in Johannesburg on February 26-28, 2018.
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