Where will you host your next event?

Africa is becoming more and more popular as a meetings destination
4th Sep, 2015

A report by American Express Meetings & Events has indicated that Africa is becoming more and more popular as a meetings destination, with 52% of respondents predicting a growth in interest.

The report, titled “Emerging Africa: Exploring Meetings on a Changing Continent”, gives the meetings and events community an inside look into the perception and intentions of corporate and supply-side meetings professionals and provides insights into how meetings professionals view meeting capabilities within specific African regions. With its results, the study highlights the importance of evaluating perceptions, as well as the benefit to be gained from education by regional suppliers, in informing destination selection as part of a meetings and events program.

South Africa remains one of Africa's most popular destinations according to the report; whilst some areas of Africa have always been popular for incentive travels, North and South Africa were also regarded as good meeting destinations, due to developing infrastructure and technology.

The study revealed key perceptions about specific African regions and how these perceptions can impact the decision to host a meeting or event in these regions. In some instances, respondents painted the continent with a broad brush and attributed qualities existent in one region to the other regions, especially in terms of infrastructure, attractions, safety, presence of suppliers, disease, terrorism, and crime. However, clear regional differences do exist.

  • North Africa rates high when it comes to desired activities and attractions; its significant infrastructure; and facilities, technology and amenities to support meetings and events, including convention centres and hotels.
  • Southern Africa is the most well-regarded of the five African regions, and is viewed to exemplify those qualities most important to a meetings planner’s consideration in infrastructure and facilities; however, some concerns over safety related to crime continue to persist.
  • Central Africa, while meetings professionals themselves are most interested in visiting Central Africa, the region does not rate highly as a desired destination for meetings and events due to its perceived lack of necessary technology and poor infrastructure to support the needs of meetings professionals.
  • East Africa possesses a number of unique attractions and is cited as destination meetings professionals are interested in personally visiting; however, these positive perceptions are limited. Similar to Central Africa, the region does not rate highly overall when it comes to the key characteristics of a meetings destination, due to recent concerns over safety, as well as a perception of the spread of Ebola – even though reported cases of Ebola have been limited to West Africa.
  • Of all the regions, West Africa inspires the least amount of interest as a meetings destination. Meetings professionals remain highly concerned with the region’s infrastructure, amenities, terrorism, crime, and the prevalence of disease.

Although the percentage of global meetings taking place in Africa is likely to remain constant over the next two years, at just under 10% compared to Europe’s 48%, more than half of meeting planners expect this to increase in time.

However, despite the recent growing interest, just under half of respondents said Africa was a difficult destination to organise events, particularly managing payments, contracts and visas. Perceptions of Africa were also mixed, with several meeting planners citing concerns about disease, terrorism and crime. In some cases meetings professionals tended to paint the continent with the same brush’, attributing the problems of certain countries across the continent.

Issa Jouaneh, senior vice president and general manager of American Express Meetings & Events, said meeting planners need to look at several factors when considering emerging destinations.

"In looking at Africa specifically, our study provides the meetings and events industry with unique insight into the perceptions and familiarity – or lack thereof – of planners with this region. We hope it can serve as a baseline from which the industry can consider opportunities for education and local insight."

While Africa continues to face challenges, the economic growth and expansion of global and multinational companies continues to drive meetings and events activities to the region. To support the goals of these companies and deliver a successful meetings experience for attendees, this study can help meetings planners consider their own perceptions and gain insight to inform decision-making in the future. Suppliers – including major hotel chains, airlines, convention centres and local visitors bureaus – have an opportunity to work together to clarify misperceptions and highlight those cities and countries within Africa that are strong destination candidates for meetings and events.

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