Kotze Nhlapo told Fin24 on Monday that the Bureau’s focus will be on industry growth at the upcoming event Meetings Africa 2016, described as Africa’s business tourism lekgotla.
“SA still only hosts about 10% of all the meetings of African associations – some years, it’s only 5% or 6%,” she explained. “There are 2 000 active African associations of various sizes with the average of between 100 and 200 delegates each. The potential for growing is huge, but we can’t do it by ourselves. We have to work together.”
Meetings Africa will take place from 22-24 February at the Sandton Convention Centre in Johannesburg under the theme of “advancing Africa together”.
Kotze Nhlapo said that another aim of Meetings Africa was to brainstorm innovation. She pointed out that Africa is home to some of the fastest growing economies in the world and that although SA isn’t growing at a very rapid pace, the economy is still on the increase and the events industry help can spur this growth on.
A vision of African association meetings rotating on the continent is much more tangible now with the Society of African Business Executives planning to open an office in Gauteng. For Kotze Nhlapo, this depicts just how much potential lies in the events industry in Africa, as do local trade shows.
Using technology to enhance meetings in SA and the rest of Africa, and also focusing on meetings in the tech field, is another potential avenue for the local events industry to explore, she said. Research conducted by the Bureau also identified that medical science and natural science are other areas that the meetings and convention sectors can look into.
One of the challenges, however, that the Bureau faces is the impact that the weakening rand has on its marketing budget. Kotze Nhlapo explains: “We need to keep reminding people about our event offerings, so it’s important for us to be active out there. The rand’s depreciation makes it more difficult so we have to find innovative ways to introduce ourselves and be visible at trade shows”.
“Yes, our businesses see opportunities, but we have to be smarter – [we have to] be very clear about where to participate in trade shows and be able to show a return on investment,” she believes. However Kotze Nhlapo is still positive about the ability to show such returns for SA businesses.
She points out another important trend for the events industry to explore – the need to see if events have had any effect on the places in which they’ve been hosted.
“This is definitely becoming very important for associations. It goes beyond ticking the box or people coming as a delegate – you measure the impact on tourism. Delegates and organisers are looking for a cause to support and to be a frontrunner in leaving lasting legacies in developing countries,” said Kotze Nhlapo.
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In Kotze Nhlao’s view, with competition between destinations growing constantly, this is a good element to enhance. “I think SA and Africa are very good in delivering on that aspect, so we’ll still focus on it and I believe we’ll have a good outcome,” she said.
So far the Bureau is still on target with the events it has secured in the future. The economic impact is estimated to be R3,1bn, and possibly more, up to 2020.
“We know 2016 will be difficult. For the meetings industry, the economic and and political stability of SA and Africa must be a top priority. This kind of instability is why people sometimes hesitate to host meetings here.”
At the same time, the Bureau maintains a 70% success rate in the bids it puts in for events.
“Most of the times when we don’t succeed with a bid, it was because of something small another country could offer. Usually we came second, not third, which is a good sign and makes me positive about SA retaining its good position in the industry,” she said.
“With the African events industry moving from internal competition to so-called ‘co-opetition’, the continent can send a strong signal to the world. Africa is still the flavour of the month and delegates want to come and explore.”