South Africa’s deputy minister of tourism, Elizabeth Thabethe (pictured), has announced a “bold and ambitious” delegate-boosting plan as part of a Bidding Support Programme to propel the country’s business events industry forward.
Speaking at ibtm world in Barcelona Thabethe told CMW the South African National Convention Bureau (SANCB) was emphasising that South Africa – and Africa – is “open for business … [and] on an accelerated drive to increase our share of the global business events pie”.
Announcing the results of a three-year study into South Africa’s business events industry, Thabethe said South Africa hosts a million business delegates every year and that the local events industry sustains more than 250 000 jobs, directly and indirectly.
She revealed that the business events industry contributes about R115 bn (US$8.4bn) to South Africa’s gross domestic product every year.
“This research proves what our industry has always suspected – that South Africa’s business events industry contributes significantly to our broader tourism economy,” Thabethe added.
The deputy minister said the study had also shown 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.
“Armed with this research, we want to entice business events delegates to come to South Africa, stay for longer and bring people with them,” Thabethe said.
To help achieve this tourism growth, the South African government has allocated R90m for a Bidding Support Programme to enable the country 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, Thabethe said, adding that the country is already widely regarded as a “go-to” destination for hosting international conferences, particularly in the medical and scientific field – last year’s International Aids Conference being a case in point.
Such high-profile events are putting South Africa on the map, Thabethe noted, but added that more needs to be done for the country’s business events sector to reach its full potential. Hence the need for the Bidding Support Programme. 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.
Thabethe said the country had already started reaping the rewards of the fund, revealing that since April 2017 the SANCB had submitted 54 bids that could potentially contribute R1.6bn to the economy, attract 57,660 delegates and generate more than 214 combined conference days.