South Africa’s deputy minister of tourism, Elizabeth Thabethe, tells CMW about a big new ZAR110m bidding fund, a delegate boosting initiative and other new business event strategies.
What is the biggest challenge today for South Africa in marketing itself as an international conference and events destination?
The major challenge is probably financial constraints. South African Tourism is allocated about R1.1bn (US$94.3m) per year to market South Africa as a premier leisure travel and business events destination, but that includes operating costs such as salaries. We believe that tourism’s contribution to our economy could be far higher than it currently is, creating more jobs and reducing poverty and inequality by extracting maximum mileage from our country’s natural and human resources.
However, the buying power of the rand in international markets varies, depending on currency fluctuations. This means we have to be nimble and smart with our existing resources, forge public-private partnerships where possible and invest wisely and strategically in order to maximise our return on marketing investment.
In response to this, South African Tourism has developed a marketing investment framework, informed by smart data and extensive research, that identifies key markets to invest in for current and future growth. This forms part of its ‘5-in-5’ strategy to attract an additional five million tourists – four million international travellers, and one million domestic holiday trips – in the next five years.
Business events in particular have been identified as having high potential for incremental growth, including motivating business travellers to stay in the country longer for holiday purposes. As a result, last year South Africa’s National Treasury approved the establishment of a Bidding Fund to help our country to bid more aggressively for international association conferences, meetings, incentives and exhibitions. The fund will also help us to boost delegate numbers at events that have already been secured for the country.
We are specifically targeting events in sectors such as manufacturing, mining and metals, business process outsourcing, creative industries, life sciences and ICT, as we believe hosting major events in these priority sectors will reap rich macro-economic benefits for the country.Totalling ZAR110m over four years, this fund will enable the South Africa National Convention Bureau (SANCB), as well as provincial and city convention bureaus, to provide essential support across the bidding process.
We are confident that this Bidding Fund will greatly enhance South Africa’s chances of winning the rights to host future business events, and we are already starting to see this bearing fruit. For example, with a portion of the bid support fund being available in the 2017-2018 financial year, the SANCB was able to increase its bid submission target from 60 to 100 submissions.
Meetings Africa is regarded as the continent’s leading business events trade show and a truly Pan-African exhibition, attracting exhibitors from about 20 different African countries with the aim of attracting more major global and regional business events to Africa.
We believe collaboration is essential for Africa to reach its potential as a premier leisure tourism and business events destination, and that African countries and businesses could benefit immensely by working together and learning from each other. For this reason, the theme for Meetings Africa 2018 was Shared Economies.
Africa already has an entrenched culture of sharing, and we believe that, through smart partnerships, we can share resources and knowledge, and build economies of scale, to benefit our continent’s business events industry as a whole. Shared knowledge means collective power and enhanced opportunities to advance Africa together.
As such, Meetings Africa is a showcase for Africa’s diverse offering of services and products to hundreds of buyers, event planners and professionals from the global meetings industry, while emphasising sustainable business practices. Featured thought leaders also shared their insights on pertinent topics.
How high up in the government’s agenda is the event sector?
It is certainly a high priority. Africa is becoming a highly desirable destination for hosting major international conferences, with the 2016 International Aids Conference in Durban being a case in point, and we hope to capitalise on this global confidence and interest in our continent by ramping up our effort to attract more such events.
The economic spin-offs of hosting these big-ticket conferences are substantial. Business events delegates also tend to spend on leisure tourism activities, and are more likely to return to South Africa for an extended leisure holiday after sampling the country’s attractions during a meeting. They are generally high-value tourists with considerable spending power.
Plus, the country’s knowledge base and intellectual capital is vastly enriched by the sharing of ideas, innovations, and developments in technology, medicine, science, education, health and so on that takes place during these large conferences. It also enables South Africa to showcase fields and sectors in which we demonstrate global leadership and excellence.
A robust business events sector contributes to inclusive economic growth, creates sustainable jobs, helps to transform the tourism sector (and other related sectors), leading to enhanced prosperity for South Africans.
For example, the Square Kilometre Array radio telescope (SKA), which will be the biggest telescope in the world and one of the biggest scientific projects in history, is being built in South Africa.
The project, which is attracting the best scientists and engineers in the world to South Africa, is already giving rise to a number of workshops and conferences. These events give South Africa an opportunity to showcase the extent of the local involvement in the project and also provide an opportunity to involve the wider community.
Considering the big investment made for the 2010 FIFA World Cup in 2010 – has there been a legacy pay-off for South Africa’s events industry?
The enhanced road and airport infrastructure, as well as major transport developments such as the Gautrain, that were built ahead of the World Cup have had an immense impact on tourism, including business events tourism.
Having such sophisticated transport infrastructure in place is vital for tourists’ ease of travel, and it complements our existing meetings venues and convention centres that are regarded as some of the finest and best-run in the world.
In fact, such is the demand that the Cape Town International Convention Centre has unveiled a new extension, CTICC 2, to host large exhibitions and conferences. The expansion is 31,148sqm in extent and consists of 10,000sqm of conference and exhibition space, as well as a further 3,000sqm of meeting space. It will enable the centre to host much larger events, as well as more events simultaneously.
A sky bridge connecting CTICC 1 and CTICC 2 will no doubt prove to be a tourist attraction in its own right.
Read the feature in issue 93 of CMW, online here.