The South African tourism sector is projected to grow from R139bn to more than R145bn this year – a great advantage for the economy, according to the Acting Chairperson of Southern African Association for the Conference Industry (SAACI), Kim Roberts.

At the opening of the 33rd SAACI congress on July 29, Roberts said, according to the World Travel and Tourism Council, the 2018 contribution of the tourism sector in South Africa directly accounted for 2.8% of real GDP.

“Tourism plays an important role in placing our economy on a sustainable, inclusive growth trajectory. Globally, tourism has demonstrated a higher growth rate than any other sector, with arrivals in emerging economies up to 2030 projected to grow at double the rate of advanced economies.”

Roberts said SAACI was poised to be part of this growth in the sector in which it did business. 

“With the forecasted domestic stability, we look forward to more movement from the corporate sector in the MICE space.  This market is to a large extent the driver of our member business sustainability, which then directly creates stable grounds for employment and economic growth.  We need to increase collaborative efforts in these tough economic times and continue to ensure South Africa’s strong position as a business tourism hub on a global front.”

Roberts assured the Deputy Minister of Tourism that SAACI fully supports the national tourism department’s goal to implement programmes to grow the economy and develop the capabilities of South Africans across the tourism value chain.

“Our Tourism Minister announced in her recent budget speech that work is under way to develop a comprehensive tourism infrastructure plan for future growth of the sector. This will intensify efforts to accelerate economic transformation and job creation through the development of tourism enterprises.”

Roberts said internationally, safety and security were always top of mind. “SAACI has and will not forfeit its safety and security responsibility and our co-operation with role players in this field is remarkable.  We intend keeping it this way,” she said.

“As a responsible organization… our actions need to accommodate the legal and regulatory frameworks governing our activities. We must promote, incorporate and embed sustainability. This includes regular reviews and support, guidance and encouragement to all involved. 

“To be successful, every one of us needs to encourage suppliers, business associates and delegates to support this drive.  We need to raise awareness and communicate the impact, reduce, minimise or avoid the volume of waste associated with any event but, most of all, contribute to a sustainable legacy. Let’s also take the lead at this congress.”

Roberts said: “Currently our business environment is more competitive than ever. I believe competition has intensified, placing greater pressure on our organisation to assist and guide our members to soar even higher. SAACI connects, supports and educates the business events industry in southern Africa by creating a sustainable environment for business growth. We are focused on raising the bar in the business events industry across all member interactions. By doing so, we create true, tangible value to our members and the greater industry in Southern Africa.”