The MICE tourism industry can propel growth in African aviation, Rick Taylor, CEO of The Business Tourism Company, told the AviaDev Africa 2019 conference in Cape Town on Thursday.

He was commenting on AviaDev MD, Jon Howell’s, statement that the potentialrevenue from new African routes could yield US$28.7bn if African airlines started serving the 66.3% of the continent that is currently unserved.

Taylor said the MICE sector in Africa was valued at US$194bn compared with US$1.3 trillion globally, indicating its “enormous potential”. “International MICE delegates spend US$366 per person per day in Africa. An event like this conference generates US$384 000 for the local economy when 200 delegates each spend US$300 per day. The MICE sector is still undervalued in Africa, but things are changing, with new convention bureaus having opened up in Rwanda and Uganda, for example.”

Taylor said African governments should appreciate the value of MICE tourism, because up to 17% of business and event travelers brought along their partners and up to 38% were likely to become repeat leisure tourists if there was a CRM (Customer Relationship Management) strategy by the convention bureau.

“Why has Rwanda become so successful? Because the government ‘got it’,” he said. 

Mike Collini, Hilton’s VP Development in sub-Saharan Africa, said other enabling factors included more air routes, more connectivity and ease of access. “An open visa access regime has a massive impact on arrivals,” he said.

Matome Ramokgobedi, Airports Company SA Group Manager: Traffic Development, added “More airlines; a thriving economy that grows the middle-class to create more travellers; collaboration amongst key stakeholders; and regional integration” as other enablers of aviation growth in Africa.