South Africa signals room to grow

South Africa signals room to grow

South Africa’s business events industry catapults into a new era of growth and synergy, writes Sarah-Claire Picton.

In the eve of a new era, South Africa ranks among the top ten long-haul destinations for hosting international and regional meetings and conferences. Thirsty to understand more about the country’s meetings industry push, CMW traverses the African continent to talk facts, forecasts and figures with industry leaders, including chief convention bureau officer at South African Tourism, Amanda Kotze-Nhlapo.

Amanda-Kotze-NhlapoAmerica, Asia and Europe provide half of all international delegates it seems. Kotze-Nhlapo(pictured left) notes: “Just over 30% of South Africa’s business delegates originate from Europe. Nearly 25% travel from elsewhere in Africa; more than 20% hail from Asia; and about 15% travel from North America.”

The country contributing the single most delegates to South Africa (10% of all delegates) is the US.

Medical congresses and conferences are the most common form of business events (34%), followed by events with a socially responsible theme (11%), like COP Cities 17. “The country possesses the facilities, infrastructure, people, capabilities and technical know-how to deliver large international conferences,” Kotze-Nhlapo says. 

A recent study by the South Africa National Convention Bureau (SANCB) found that South Africa hosts about a million delegates every year. Furthermore, the international business events industry supports around 252,000 jobs in South Africa annually. The study revealed business events contribute over R115bn (US$9.585bn) to GDP annually in South Africa.

RichardJohannesburg-born Richard Torriani (pictured left), MD MCI Geneva, adds some ‘big picture’ context.

Torriani places “pricing somewhere in the middle of negative and positive”, while security “is a reality, not a hurdle”, adding that it is manageable.

Cape Town hosts the majority of conferences held in the country and a huge share of those held on the continent too.

Torriani describes it is an attractive city, which is “accessible and offers a lot [for delegates]”.

Cape-Town_CTICC-2-3Capetonian contribution
The hosting hub behind the city’s attraction is CTICC 2 – the R900m expansion at Cape Town International Convention Centre (CTICC), opening 25 January 2018.

CTICC 2 boosts Cape Town’s reputation as a globally competitive business events destination – key benefits being greater capacity and greater flexibility.

“The CTICC has made a cumulative economic contribution to national GDP of R36.3bn, adding R32bn to the Western Cape economy,” explains Western Cape executive mayor Patricia de Lille. The CTICC has 133 bookings for events, with 58 international conferences secured and 75 national events contracted until December 2023. The CTICC 2 provides impetus to Cape Town’s development as the “ideas capital of Africa”.

Holding 71.4% of the shares in the CTICC, the City of Cape Town has finally invested R550m in the expansion project. Western Cape minister of economic development, Alan Winde, notes: “Delegates at CTICC-hosted conferences spent R1.3bn in 2016/17, while international delegates brought R363m in foreign exchange into our economy.”

Those visiting the province should take note of the water crisis and consider staying at hotels holding and/or building their own desalination plants like Tsogo Sun (HQ in Jo’burg). The JEC-listed hotel company is urgently building its own plant to help supply its hotels with their own water.


Fast-tracking economic growth in Johannesburg
Johannesburg, Gauteng, is the economic hub of South Africa, contributing 34.7% in GDP.

An initiative of the Gauteng Provincial Government (GPG), and considered the city’s trump card, is the high-speed Gautrain linking O. R. Tambo International Airport with Sandton – home to Jo’burg’s main convention centre.

Johannesburg played host to Meetings Africa 2018, which – under the theme of Shared Economies – took place at the Sandton Convention Centre, 26-28 February.

Durban-ICC-Arena-EntranceEast coast expansion
Durban in Kwa-Zulu Natal has a heritage of hosting global events in the medical, economic and financial sectors.

In the last financial year, Durban ICC showed a 38% growth in the number of events hosted, resulting in a 30% year-on-year growth in profits.

Durban ICC CEO Lindiwe Rakharebe tells CMW: “The [international] trends are moving away from purely financial drivers for events and more toward humanitarian priorities and how we can solve the complex challenges facing the world today.”

Key MICE events in previous years included the WEF on Africa and the 21st International AIDS Conference. Looking forward, the city has won the right to host Africa’s Travel Indaba for the next five years. In 2018 the Durban ICC will also host the International Telecommunication Union’s global conference, ITU World Telecom, the 2nd AFREhealth Symposium and the Pan African Thoracic Society Conference. Upcoming events include the Psychosocial Rehabilitation Congress, the World Conference on Drowning Prevention and the AfricaBIO Convention.

KrugerIncentives to stay on in SA
Kotze-Nhlapo says the average business traveller spends seven days in South Africa – most (80%) stay in hotels, and about a third travel the country (before or after their event) for around 3.5 days.

Kotze-Nhlapo draws attention to local attractions for incentives trips and extending stays: “South Africa is aiming to entice delegates to extend the length of their stay in the country by encouraging trade partners to offer attractive leisure holiday add-ons to business trips.” The Kruger National Park in Mpumalanga is a popular attraction.

Safaris aside, South Africa beckons further exploration.

For more information, visit South African Tourism (

Conference & Meetings World is published for the international conference and meetings industry. It tackles the issues facing organisers of international events. The editorial is independent, fresh and news driven, with a global reach.

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